Rice Bowl is an opportunity for ‘a culture of encounter’

The season of Lent is marked by many traditions among Catholics in the United States. Symbolized by its ubiquitous cardboard box, CRS Rice Bowl has been a practice for generations of Catholics.

Beginning in 1975 as a response to a growing famine in Africa, CRS Rice Bowl today shines a light on the Catholic community’s commitment to poor and vulnerable families — our brothers and sisters. Their lives are improving in meaningful, measurable ways through the humanitarian programs and services provided by Catholic Relief Services and the Catholic Church around the world.

This year, CRS Rice Bowl provides a path for Catholics in the United States to build what Pope Francis calls “a culture of encounter”. By following the daily Lenten calendar, sharing the weekly stories of hope, and making the meatless meals, participants will follow a personal journey that leads to us seeing ourselves in the faces of our neighbors, cultivating a spirit of global solidarity and encountering God’s love anew.

Pope Francis told Catholic leaders that the “ability to see yourselves in the faces of others, this daily proximity to their share of troubles and their little acts of heroism: this is what enables you to practice the commandment of love, not on the basis of ideas or concepts, but rather on the basis of genuine interpersonal encounter.”

“We do not love concepts or ideas,” the pope said. “We love people.”

“CRS Rice Bowl is about people and the hope we have for each other. It’s about our ability to encounter our neighbors no matter where they live, to love them as God loves us,” said Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Vice President of U.S. Operations for CRS.

“At a time when there is so much conflict in the world, this Lenten program gives people of all ages a way to respond to human suffering with compassion and action. To learn the names and stories of our brothers and sisters, to include them in our prayers, to contribute our Lenten sacrifices so they can live better, healthier lives; this is the way we deepen our faith, building a culture of encounter and holding up the dignity of each and every one of us,” Rosenhauer said.

For over 40 years, CRS Rice Bowl has provided an inspired collection of resources for families, parishes and Catholic schools to incorporate into their Lenten season.

With CRS Rice Bowl, each week of Lent is a new opportunity to meet a family from a different country overseas, hear their personal stories, learn about their culture and experience a meatless meal they serve at home. Each Lenten story illustrates a principal of Catholic social teaching — an essential element of Catholic faith that says every human being is created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ, and therefore is invaluable and worthy of respect as a member of the human family.

“We want to meet people where they are in their day-to-day lives, in schools, in parishes, and on the go. CRS Rice Bowl is an easy to use tool that helps people deepen their Lenten journey by participating in our Lenten traditions — prayer, fasting and almsgiving — in a time and way that suits them best.

“For some families this means following the Lenten calendar at home, for others it means downloading the app, or making the Lenten recipes, or watching the Lenten stories of hope on their tablets — anyway people choose is a good way to make this Lent a season to encounter ourselves, our neighbors and our God and serve the poor around the world,” said Beth Martin, program director for U.S. Operations.

CRS Rice Bowl is global in its reach, bringing tangible goods and services to people in need around the world. Twenty-five percent of all contributions stay in local dioceses to support hunger and poverty prevention programs such as community gardens, food pantries, soup kitchens, support groups, and job centers.

The remaining 75 percent goes to support CRS’ humanitarian and development programs overseas, providing life-saving assistance and hope to impoverished and vulnerable communities.


By Catholic Relief Services

Catholic Relief Services photo/Petterik Wiggers: Dita Abdo (gray shawl with red leaves), a mother of seven and recent ‘graduate’ of CRS’ Development Food Aid Program, participates in SILC (Savings and Internal Lending Communities), which has enabled her to purchase additional livestock and send her children to school.

Looking for meatless meals to prepare this Lent?

Find these and more recipes from around the world at www.crsricebowl.org/recipe.

2017 CRS Rice Bowl meal from Zambia: Peanut stew over polenta

Ifisashi  (Peanut stew over Polenta) – Zambia

2 cups water
1 cup peanuts, chopped
1 onion, sliced
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
2 bunches spinach or collard greens, washed and chopped
Salt to taste

Bring water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the peanuts, tomatoes and onion. After a few minutes, add the chopped greens. Stir occasionally and continue cooking until peanuts are soft and mixture has become a thick buttery sauce — about 15 minutes.

Serve hot over polenta or rice.

Makes 4–6 servings.

2017 CRS Rice Bowl meal from Mexico: Arroz Rojo

Arroz Rojo (Red Rice) – Mexico

2 cups rice
1 tbsp fair trade olive oil
1 garlic clove, diced
3 tomatoes, chopped
½ onion, chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup peas
2 carrots, chopped
1 chili pepper, chopped
Salt to taste

Add oil to a large pan on low heat. Add rice and toast until golden. Add garlic, tomatoes and onion; cook until mixture is soft. Add the broth, peas, carrots, chili pepper and salt. When it begins to boil, reduce the heat and cover until rice is fully cooked.

Makes 4–6 servings.