Pope Francis, in his Lenten message for 2017, stated that “Lent is the favorable season for renewing our encounter with Christ” and that “Lent is a favorable season for opening the doors to all those in need and recognizing in them the face of Christ.”
In a recent letter, Bishop Patrick J. McGrath encouraged parishes and schools to participate in CRS Rice Bowl as he wrote, “Our faith calls us to build a culture of encounter. We hear this call clearly throughout the Gospel and we see it reflected in Pope Francis’ daily example.”
During these 40 days of Lent, we have had the opportunity to encounter Christ through CRS Rice Bowl as we encounter our sisters and brothers in need from communities throughout the world. We see the face of Christ through their stories of hope and then, through our prayers and almsgiving, we can contribute to positive change in their lives, while they also transform us.
CRS Rice Bowl also challenges us to see the face of Christ in those within our local community. Each year, on Palm Sunday, CRS Rice Bowl highlights how Rice Bowl donations are used locally in the United States. While 75 percent of the funds collected help fund development projects overseas, 25 percent of the contributions that are collected in each diocese help to alleviate poverty and hunger in the local community.
This past year in the Diocese of San José, CRS Rice Bowl grants totaling $36,300 were distributed to 24 local parish and school programs, such as the Homework Program at Sacred Heart Education Center. Currently, funds from the Rice Bowl Grant to Sacred Heart are being used to provide healthy snacks for the students, from kindergarten through high school, while they are doing their homework after school. At a recent gathering of Rice Bowl coordinators, Betsy Preciado, coordinator of the program, explained that a goal of the program is to teach the students to eat healthier snacks and willingly drink milk and eat carrots. Through this and many other programs, lives are being changed for the better through CRS Rice Bowl in our own community.
As Lent comes to an end, parishes and schools are encouraged to send their Rice Bowl donations into the Chancery as soon as all funds have been collected. This will help the Diocesan Rice Bowl Grant team determine how much will be available for local Rice Bowl grants. The local grant process for CRS Rice Bowl funds opens on May 1 this year and the deadline for applications is June 1, 2017. Applications will be available on May 1.
Bishop McGrath closed his Lenten letter to schools and parishes, writing, “Thank you for inviting families in your faith community to an enriched Lenten journey through CRS Rice Bowl. Together, we will do our part to respond to Christ’s call to build a culture of encounter.”