Think Outside the (Rice) Bowl!

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Think Outside the (Rice) Bowl!

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“What you give up for Lent changes lives.” This is one of the mottoes of Catholic Relief Services (CRS). CRS, a nonprofit organization, is the outreach arm of the American Catholic Church. CRS encourages everyone to turn their fast into a feast, meaning that the money we have left over after giving up certain foods or eating simpler meals will go to provide food for those who need it most.

Lent is a time of preparation and a 40-day journey of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving that begins on Ash Wednesday and helps us deepen our relationship with Christ. Merion has partnered with CRS this year to join in on its mission to bring lent to life. At the start of the Lenten season, all of the theology classes distributed a rice bowl and Lenten calendar to each student. Each day, the calendar contains daily reflections with suggested Bible passages to read, prayers to say, and questions to contemplate.

The rice bowl is CRS’s one major fundraiser for the entire country, and so Merion wants to join with the rest of the Church in caring for local and global needs. Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the CRS rice bowl began as a way Catholics in the United States could respond to the famine in Africa. Mrs. Kromm explains, “Merion is involved in doing a lot of outreach and service and one of the big services we do is the Girl Effect and through that we go involved in Sudan. CRS goes to every school and asks them to get involved, and when they came to our school, they saw how we are so involved already and wanted to partner with us. That’s how it really got ignited.” Another goal of CRS is to raise awareness of the poverty in our world and what we can do to help out.

Ghana was the first African country to invite CRS as a partner. CRS has been there for 50 years and because of the work of providing food, medicines, and clean water, families have allowed children to be educated to go to school. Some of the first students who were exposed to CRS are now mayors, doctors, governors, and of course parents of the next generation. Mrs. Meacham shares about her experience in Ghana last summer and how it has raised her awareness of hunger and poverty: “In one village there was no source of clean water, no pumps. So the girls had to carry water from the stream. Because of that they couldn’t go to school. Many of them marry young because they won’t have an education.” CRS works with the villages to provide pumps that allow a community source of water (such as one located at the center of the village, so the girls would not have to walk as far). Located in a hundred countries, CRS has helped to support education for thousands of young people, and all rice bowl money goes directly to this work.

The rice bowl calendar contains the stories of six individuals from Africa, their struggles to survive and care for their families, and how CRS has benefited them. Also included are simple-to-make recipes to try out. In order to motivate students to contribute, Mrs. Meacham recommends planning one simple supper at home during Lent and putting the money saved that night into the rice bowl. She suggests that the Merion girl prepare that meal and lead her family in prayer, using the rice bowl as a point of discussion.” For example, put a suggested menu, such as grilled cheese, celery sticks, and tomato soup. And then total up the price for a family of four and see the difference.”

Although the 40 days of Lent are almost over, it is still not too late to donate. So check out crsricebowl.org for more information on how you can donate! And remember: what you give up, you give to others.

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