As Lent begins,
As Catholics throughout the world begin their Lenten
journey on Feb. 22, many in the United States will begin theirs in the
company of a Catholic Relief Services program that will not only introduce
them to people in need in the developing world, but also offer the opportunity
to assist them.
A cardboard rice bowl — some assembly required — and a daily
reflection calendar become part of a household for Lent, offering stories
about people in other parts of the world; recipes to sample their cuisine;
and activities and prayers to strength their journeys.
There are concrete actions one might be asked to put in the Rice Bowl,
a dime for each water faucet in your house. Sending parents and children
out to count water faucets might open up a conversation of places in the
world where water faucets are not in homes.
Simple, meatless meals can be prepared — the suggestion is to place
in the Rice Bowl the difference between the cost of that meal and what
would have been the family’s regular meal. This year’s campaign
will feature meals from Vietnam, Zambia, India, Madagascar and El Salvador.
Nearly 13,000 faith communities in the United States make Operation Rice
Bowl a part of their Lenten experiences.
The Rice Bowl contributions are collected, typically on Holy Thursday.
Seventy-five percent of the proceeds are sent overseas; 25 percent remains
in the U.S. for local food programs.
In the Diocese of Oakland, $15,000 was distributed to 18 agencies
that fight hunger in Alameda and Contra counties — including 10
parish-based St. Vincent de Paul conferences.
For the Day-Palermo Family, parishioners at St. Columba in Oakland, Lent
is a time of learning. Operation Rice Bowl helps the family members live
“We have the calendar,” said Maureen Day, a veteran of the
Jesuit Volunteer Corps who is a doctoral student at the Graduate Theological
Union. “We can focus on the person,” she said, and how their
lives are improved by Catholic Relief Services.
“We always make the recipe on Friday,” Day said. Not only
does it help them teach the kids about the country, but also about the
importance of helping others.
“It’s great for any age,” said the mother of Veronica,
6, and David, 2. “Even the youngest kids can relate to the calendar,”
The cardboard rice bowl itself sits at the dining room table, where the
family gathers nightly at mealtime. They include the country the Rice
Bowl materials focus on in their prayers.
The family also chooses a Lenten sacrifice, such as giving up sweets or