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placeholder February 18, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 4   •   Oakland, CA

Thomas Awiapo works in Ghana for Catholic Relief Services; he will be speaking at Saint Mary's College in Moraga on March 6 and Ignite, the diocesan youth rally, on March 16.
Lane Hartill/CRS

Students spread word about Catholic Relief Services

As a Catholic Relief Services ambassador on the Saint Mary's College campus, Ali Carroll tells others about how their choice of chocolate or coffee, for example, can make a difference.

"Ambassadors work to promote Catholic Relief Services," she said, adding they do "so much advocating so they can effect change in the world."

This time of year, Carroll's work, and that of her fellow ambassadors, includes some heavy lifting.

Thomas Awiapo

What: Hear about Catholic Relief Services' work

When: March 6, 7 p.m.

Where: Soda Center, Saint Mary's College, 1928 St. Mary's Road, Moraga.

Admission: Free. Contributions to the CRS Rice Bowl will be welcome.

Sponsor: Mission and Ministry, Saint Mary's College


What: Diocese of Oakland Youth Day 2013

When: March 16, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Where: Bishop O'Dowd High School, 9500 Stearns Ave., Oakland

Cost: $25 per person

Includes: Mass, confession, speakers, including Thomas Awiapo and Father Dave Pivonka, games and lunch

Must: Attend with a youth group

"We do Rice Bowl," she said, "with a tweak."

In the past, when the CRS ambassadors handed out the familiar small individual Rice Bowls to students, they had some trouble getting them back.

The CRS Rice Bowl is a faith formation activity during Lent, which gives people the opportunity to pray and learn about people in need, and assist them through small contributions, made daily or weekly, to a little cardboard box that is typically given back to a parish on Holy Thursday.

But the little boxes did not fit well into the typical college student's life.

"We know people want to give back," Carroll said.

The Saint Mary's ambassadors sought help from Catholic Relief Services, which responded with a display-model Rice Bowl, which Carroll described as being about 10 times the size of the usual box.

Think of it as a super-sized Rice Bowl.

It goes to every Mass in the Saint Mary's College chapel. Announcements are made at each Mass, Carroll said, reminding the participants that the Rice Bowl welcomes donations. Last year, two of the big boxes were placed at the pillars at the back of the chapel during Mass.

At other times, the Rice Bowl makes its home in the Ministry and Mission Office on campus. As students and others on campus drop by, they deposit a few coins.

As Lent continues, the Rice Bowl gets pretty heavy. By the end of Lent, "it gets to be "quite a hefty weight," Carroll said. But the student ambassadors are happy to shoulder the load.

On March 6, they will be bringing the Rice Bowl to the Soda Center on campus, where CRS worker Thomas Awiapo will speak about his work in Ghana. Admission to the talk is free, and open to the public. Carroll was inviting neighboring parishes to come hear the talk.

Awiapo's inspiring story of a childhood nourished by the efforts of Catholic Relief Services will also highlight that while 75 percent of the proceeds collected by CRS Rice Bowl are sent to projects overseas, the remaining 25 percent goes to work locally.

"We can help people in our backyard," Carroll said. "This is the chance to impact that."

Two dozen organizations that feed the hungry in Alameda and Contra Costa counties received more than $25,000 from Rice Bowl contributions in 2012. One agency, the Delta Christian Community Food Pantry, is featured in the CRS Rice Bowl materials this year.

The young ambassador said last year the Rice Bowl yielded about $300 for Catholic Relief Services work.

Carroll, a junior majoring in theology with a minor in politics, has a particular interest in Christian ethics. She has participated in Catholic Relief Services efforts while she was in high school, and as a member of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Westlake Village in Southern California.

"I fell in love with it," she said of the fair trade aspect of Catholic Relief Services' work. The ambassadors are working on trying to get the Moraga campus fair-trade certified.

Among her favorite activities are the Friday mornings when students are invited to sample fair-trade coffee and coffee. Fair-trade olive oil has also entered the campus picture.

For Valentine's Day, the ambassadors were planning to sell fair-trade roses for $2 a stem.

"It's nice to see you pay $2 for a rose and it goes to the person who grew it," she said.

"You feel so much better giving fair trade," she said.

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