Published February 8, 2007
Catholic Relief Services invites individuals, parishes and groups to participate through prayer, fasting, learning and giving in Operation Rice Bowl, their annual Lenten tradition to live in solidarity with persons in need around the world.
Using ORB materials participants are asked to pray and reflect on the realities, challenges and gifts of their neighbors around the world who struggle with hunger and poverty. People are encouraged to fast from meat and use ORB’s recipes from abroad for simple vegetarian meals, such as okra with cornmeal porridge, a dish eaten in Niger. They can use ORB learning resources that highlight some of ORB’s work in 99 countries around the world and are asked to consider making a donation to CRS to benefit agricultural, water, microfinance, mother and child health, education and HIV/AIDS projects.
Seventy-five percent of ORB donations will benefit CRS work overseas and Lenten educational activities in the United States, while the rest will fund local hunger and poverty alleviation programs in participating dioceses.
Most materials are available in English and Spanish and can be adapted for various settings, including a cardboard bowl to collect sacrificial donations, and a home calendar guide with daily prayers and reflections on CRS work in countries ranging from Mexico to Pakistan and facts on those countries. One week focuses on Angola and the story of a 13-year-old who lives in the African country and contracted polio because armed fighting in her country had prevented her from getting a vaccination. CRS initiated with the Angolan Ministry of Health the Polio Project to stop the disease from spreading by organizing polio vaccination campaigns and to treat those who have it. In 1999, 1,500 Angolans fell victim to a polio outbreak. The girl featured in the calendar was given a wheelchair by CRS and receives treatment. “Now I can move around the village without any help, and my mother does not have to worry about me as much,” she said.
There is also an educator’s guide with lesson plans for grades 1-12; a community and parish guide with activities and resources for parishes and faith communities; and an interactive Web site with Lenten resources and activities that can be downloaded. Persons seeking more information can even take a virtual tour of featured countries to witness how programs are changing lives or receive weekly e-mail reflections throughout Lent. A multimedia CD-ROM comes loaded with virtual tours of highlighted countries as well as the Stations of the Cross and an interactive ORB map.
ORB started in the Diocese of Allentown, Pa., in 1975 and was adopted nationally by CRS in 1976. With participation in almost every diocese in the United States, many parishes and schools have adopted the program to make it fit their unique needs. Annually it raises approximately $8 million.