By Crystal Catalan
The CRS Rice Bowl Lenten program is here! This program offers families and faith communities opportunities to put their faith into action through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Focused on our brothers and sisters in need around the world, the CRS Rice Bowl program provides daily reflections, activities, prayers, and additional resources for parishes, families, and schools for use throughout the duration of Lent. Last year, more than 13,000 Catholic parishes and schools across the U.S. participated in CRS Rice Bowl and the Diocese of San Jose had more than 60 parishes and schools participate in the program.
With the Lenten alms that are collected through the Rice Bowl, seventy-five percent of the gifts support CRS’ humanitarian programs around the world, and twenty-five percent of the gifts will remain in our very own Diocese of San Jose. From the CRS Rice Bowl collection in 2015, the Diocese of San Jose was able to award more than $84,000 in grants to parishes and schools to their programs that focused on poverty and hunger alleviation in their communities. Among the 21 parish and school grant recipients were Bellarmine Prep School, Santa Teresa Church, Holy Spirit Church, Holy Family Church, Saint Leo the Great Church, and Saint Lucy Church – many in support of local organizations: Casa de Clara Catholic Worker, Sunday Friends, and Saint Vincent de Paul.
You may pick up a CRS Rice Bowl at your local parish, or you can even download a CRS Rice Bowl family kit to make your own. If you are on the go, the CRS Rice Bowl even offers a mobile app with Lenten reflections and activities. Download the app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
Vanhkham Phengsaphone (pictured above), age 6, holds a bowl of rice, with his mother, Hongkham Phengsaphone, age 36, and one of his brothers, Khamtanh Phengsaphone, age 9, standing behind him. Vanhkam, Khamtanh and one other brother attend Nongdern Primary School, where they and the other students receive a free school lunch each day through CRS’ LEAPS program. His mother, Hongkham, is a LEAPS volunteer cook at their school.
CRS’ LEAPS (Learning and Engaging All in Primary Schools) is a literacy program that uses school lunches as an incentive to keep students in school. LEAPS also provides training for teachers and principals, and strengthens the capacity of local Village Education Development Committees. The program uses volunteer cooks at each school who receive a monthly ration of food to take home in exchange for volunteering.
LEAPS is a three-year McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition initiative sponsored and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and is run in partnership with the Laos Ministry of Education, as well as the University of Oregon and Room to Read. Location: Nongdern Village, Atsaphone District, Savannakhet Province, Laos (Lao PDR).
Thomas Awiapo Speaks about Lenten Program that Saved His Life
Awiapo tells a truly inspiring story of survival and success. Orphaned before the age of 10, Awiapo survived bleak poverty and hunger in his small African village. At age 12, his search for food led him to a school where Catholic Relief Services (CRS) – with funds contributed through the CRS Rice Bowl Lenten program, was providing lunch. The school that served him food also helped Awiapo develop an appetite for education. He went on to attend university in Ghana and eventually earn a master’s degree in administration from California State University, Haywood.He is speaking around the United States this Lent, sharing his story and showing how participation in CRS Rice Bowls brings compassion to the work of stopping hunger and poverty around the world.“You can call me the poster child for CRS Rice Bowl but we’d be closer to the truth if you called my children your poster children. They have never experienced hunger in their lifetime, and today they attend university, high school and secondary schools without missing a beat,” said Awiapo.
Today, Awiapo works for CRS and trains community leaders throughout Ghana, where he lives with his wife and four children.
Thomas Awiapo will be visiting the Diocese of San Jose February 20-22, speaking at all Masses at Saint John Vianney Parish. He will also be at the CRS Lenten Prayer Service held at Saint Lawrence the Martyr Parish at 7 pm. For more information, please contact Crystal Catalan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catholic Relief Services has worked in Ghana since 1958. Our largest programs there are designed to benefit children by providing support for education, health, water and sanitation, agriculture and people living with HIV and AIDS.
CRS Rice Bowl materials are available in English and Spanish in print, on the web and through the mobile app. To follow CRS Rice Bowl on Twitter or Facebook, search @CRSRiceBowl or #4Lent4Life.
To donate and to learn more about CRS Rice Bowl visit crsricebowl.org or download the app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.