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placeholder January 9, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 1   •   Oakland, CA

Vincentian Connie Clement is flanked by Marc McKimmey, diocesan coordinator for Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl and Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ.

40 groups receive Rice Bowl grants
to feed to the hungry

As the bishop of Oakland thanked one recipient of a CRS Rice Bowl grant for her work in providing a hot breakfast to Oakland schoolchildren, she smiled, accepted the check and said, "We can't do it without you."

Neither could any of the 40 East Bay agencies that received $31,000 in grants from Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl at an awards breakfast Dec. 9 at Christ the King Parish in Pleasant Hill.

While the majority of the money contributed during the annual Lenten program of education, prayer, fasting and alms-giving goes to Catholic Relief Services projects to alleviate hunger around the globe, 25 percent goes to work at home in the Diocese of Oakland.

The individual grants — ranging from $500 to $1,000 — went to 24 conferences of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, most based in parishes, and 16 churches, schools and organizations that feed those who are hungry.

The awards breakfast provided an opportunity to "celebrate what's being done by people of faith to make our community a more compassionate place," Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, said.

The bishop noted that while Pope Francis had recently closed the Holy Door, signifying the end of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, "the work of mercy never ceases in the church. It's absolutely critical to who we are as Christians and especially Catholics."

"When you bring mercy to people who are thirsty, or naked or hungry, you are really taking care of Christ," he said.

Third-graders at All Saints School in Hayward received a $550 grant for the third year in a row. Teacher Marianne Landis uses the funds to buy supplies, which the students turn into bag lunches for the poor.

Connie Clement of the St. Vincent de Paul conference at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish said as many as 130 families receive food at the Brentwood church. The conference received a $500 grant from CRS Rice Bowl.

Food is purchased from the food bank and fresh vegetables bought at Food Maxx, she said. "Every bit of it is gone," she said, after serving the needs of the families who depend on it.

In addition, the Vincentians "keep bags of food at the church " and deliver to the homebound as needed, she said.

Clement, a Brentwood native, retired about a dozen years ago. "I always wanted to volunteer," she said. "I saw my mother being a volunteer." A fellow parishioner told her, "We need you at St. Vincent de Paul. You speak Spanish."

She recalled, in earlier days at the parish, "Father (John) Garcia was the St. Vincent de Paul." The pastor maintained supplies of rice and beans, she recalled, "and he kept bread in the freezer."

Today the parish also has a garden. "The farmers are so good to us," she said, noting they bring in tractors to prepare the land for crops. She noted a parishioner in her 70s engages in "the ministry of weeding."

Bishop Barber also recognized the presence at the breakfast of Father Jayson Landeza — wearing his bright yellow ATF chaplain jacket — who had to leave to return to the scene of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland. Father Landeza said he was at the event to support his parishioners at St. Benedict in Oakland, whose St. Vincent de Paul conference received an $850 grant.

Martha Paul dressed in the spirit of the season in red and white, received a $750 check for Project Outreach in Oakland.

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