A beloved Lenten tradition is “alive and well” — and helping more people than ever, said Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop John McIntyre.
At a Feb. 18 press conference and prayer service, Bishop McIntyre blessed hundreds of cardboard Rice Bowl containers, marking the archdiocesan start of an annual campaign by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) that enables faithful to “live out Lent,” he said.
(Related: Rice Bowl makes family table an ‘altar’ of service, says founder)
Now in its 47th year, the Rice Bowl initiative combines prayer, fasting and almsgiving to help those in need both in the U.S. and abroad. During Lent, participants contribute money saved through fasting or preparing meatless meals similar to those eaten in impoverished nations.
Of each year’s collection, 75% goes to support humanitarian response and development programs that CRS – the official relief and development agency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — operates in more than 100 countries, benefiting some 140 million people.
The remaining 25% funds local efforts to alleviate hunger, such as those directed by archdiocesan Nutritional Development Services (NDS), which provides assistance to some 50 area food cupboards and soup kitchens in the five-county area.
The change collected in the cardboard Rice Bowl containers has added up considerably over the years. Since its inception in 1975 and adoption a year later by the Catholic Church in the U.S., the program has raised more than $250 million. Some $62.5 million of the total has funded U.S. diocesan ministries and $187.5 million has assisted CRS’s international response.
In 2021, the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s collection topped $360,000, an increase of nearly 65%. Approximately $271,254 supported CRS’s global humanitarian efforts, while the remaining 25%, or $90,148, were directed to NDS to help purchase “over 150,000 pounds of food,” said that agency’s executive director Lizanne Hagedorn.
“Vegetables, grains and protein items such as tuna, chicken and beans have been … part of the continuous flow of food to (our) pantries,” she said.
Those staples were desperately needed, said Lola DeCarlo-Coles, administrator of archdiocesan Catholic Social Services’ (CSS) Southwest Family Service Center in Philadelphia.
At the site’s food cupboard, “lines start at 8 a.m., before we’re even there, and go around the block,” she said, noting that NDS has been “instrumental in providing food” for a broad swath of the southwestern Philadelphia area over the past 18 years.
The agency has also responded to evolving food-insecurity crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and recent influxes of Afghan refugees who are being resettled by archdiocesan Catholic Social Services, she said.
At the same time, “Rice Bowl has always been so much more than a collection,” said Anne Ayella, CRS director for the Philadelphia Archdiocese. “It’s really a faith-formation program during Lent that helps us to get to know out global brothers and sisters and make a difference where we can.”
This year, the campaign focuses on three families from Bangladesh, Guatemala and Rwanda, sharing their struggles with “water scarcity, poverty, climate change” and other threats to food security, said Ayella.
The Rice Bowl’s accompanying Lenten calendar, meatless recipes and online videos “walk us through the 40 days of Lent, where we can really meet people and learn about their world and their lives,” she said.
Rice Bowl is a way of “drawing closer to God,” said Bishop McIntyre – and whether around the corner or across the world, those who benefit from the campaign are positively impacted.
“I want you to know that the moneys collected are being put to good use,” said DeCarlo-Coles. “They are reaching to community and … we are forever grateful.”
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
PREVIOUS: Scholarships enable students to foster the ‘Spirit of America’
NEXT: Memorial for active military blessed at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church
Share this story