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For more than four decades, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has been enriching the Lenten journey of U.S. Catholics through Rice Bowl, the Lenten faith formation program that combines prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Nowhere in the country is CRS Rice Bowl as well received and  meaningful as in our own Archdiocese. Perhaps that’s because Rice Bowl has local roots!

Let’s turn back the clock to 1976. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia was hosting the 41st International Eucharistic Congress with the theme of “Hungers of the Human Family”. Day Two of the Congress was organized by St. Joseph University’s Father Edward Brady S.J. with “Hunger for Bread” as its theme. Father Brady and his team engaged exciting speakers, such as Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, Brazilian Bishop and social activist, Dom Helder Camara and Society of Jesus Superior General, Rev. Pedro Arrupe S.J.

Even more important than the prestigious presenters was Father Brady’s idea to come up with an “action opportunity” that would remind people of the crippling hunger faced by our global brothers and sisters and our role in making a difference.

>> WATCH VIDEO: Speaking of Hope with Archbishop Pérez – Catholic Relief Services

In a profound way, Fathers Brady and Arrupe helped all of us to understand the powerful connection between the Eucharist and feeding the hungry. Father Arrupe shared, “We cannot receive the Bread of Life without sharing bread for life with those in need and without action, this Congress will have no real meaning.”

Father Ed Brady made a connection with Monsignor Robert Coll from the Diocese of Allentown who conceived the concept of Operation Rice Bowl and saw it as the action that would make a lasting difference.

Rice Bowl was adopted as a program of CRS in 1977 and continues to make a real difference to U.S. Catholics who have made it a part of their Lenten journey and for our global and local brothers and sisters who hunger for food.

The Lenten pillars of prayer, fasting and almsgiving help us to grow in faith and deepen our relationship with the Lord. CRS Rice Bowl invites us to practice these pillars while reflecting on the needs of our sisters and brothers and how we can respond in love to support them.

Each Lenten season, CRS shares “Stories of Hope” and introduces us to our global brothers and sisters whose lives are touched by Rice Bowl.

This year, we will journey with CRS to Honduras, the Philippines and Kenya to learn about the root causes of hunger and how families—with the support of faith communities are making sure they have nutritious food to thrive.

>>PHOTO FEATURE: Archdiocese launches 48th annual Rice Bowl initiative with blessing of cardboard boxes

In addition, Rice Bowl continues to touch the lives of persons struggling right in our own archdiocese through area food cupboards and soup kitchens supported by Nutritional Development Services.

On average, 180-200 parishes and schools throughout the five-county Philadelphia area participate in Rice Bowl and traditionally Rice Bowl collections have ranged from $340,000 – $ 395,000.

Rice Bowl 2022 donations from the Archdiocese were $374,562.42 with 75% going to support global projects through CRS and 25% remaining here locally in the archdiocese to support area hunger relief ministries.

CRS Rice Bowl provides excellent resources to bring Lenten spirituality to life while connecting Catholics in our Archdiocese with our global human family.

Visit to find  resources, including Lenten devotions and prayers, videos and activity sheets, ideas for in-person or virtual community gatherings.


Anne Ayella is the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) director for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. For more information on CRS Rice Bowl, contact Anne by phone at 215-907-9436, email at, or visit

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