Published February 10, 2005
This Lent marks the 30th anniversary of Operation Rice Bowl, a seven-week program of prayer, fasting, learning and giving through which U.S. Catholics contribute millions of dollars each year to alleviate poverty and hunger at home and abroad.
In an announcement released from its Baltimore headquarters, Catholic Relief Services, which sponsors the program, said millions of Catholics in parishes, schools and faith communities participate each year. Of the roughly $8 million raised annually, three-fourths goes to development projects that contribute to food security in some 40 countries around the world. The other one-fourth stays in U.S. dioceses to fund local programs.
Operation Rice Bowl began in 1975 as a program of the Diocese of Allentown, Pa., and CRS, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency, adopted it as a national program the following year. This year Lent begins Feb. 9 in the Latin Church and Feb. 7 in the Eastern Catholic churches.
An important element of the Operation Rice Bowl program is its Lenten calendar. The calendar has meal recipes from various countries assisted by the program and a message for each day about the poverty and other needs people in those countries face. It includes practical suggestions linking those realities to daily life in America.
The Feb. 15 message, for example, says that while 55 percent of Americans have Internet access only two of every 1,000 people in Eritrea have Internet access.
It asks Operation Rice Bowl participants to learn more about Eritrea on its Web site, www.catholicrelief.org, and to contribute 55 cents that day for every computer in their home.
The calendar also has brief stories from individuals who have been helped by CRS projects in the featured countries.
“When the poor remain nameless and without a life story, it is easy to forget them,” said Anne Ayella, Philadelphia archdiocesan CRS director.
“Operation Rice Bowl tells their stories and helps us to see our brothers and sisters with eyes of compassion,” she said.
Editor’s Note: General information about Operation Rice Bowl is available on the Internet at: www.crs.org/orb, or by calling: (800) 222-0025.