By MARY ANNE CASTRANIO, Staff Writer | Published February 19, 2015
SMYRNA—Justice and Peace Ministries of the Atlanta Archdiocese joined with Catholic Relief Services to host a kickoff for Rice Bowl on Friday, Feb. 13.
The lunchtime program included Mass, followed by a sharing of a meal of rice and beans, and a talk by Thomas Awiapo, a senior program officer for CRS Ghana. It took place at the Atlanta Archdiocese Chancery.
Some 35 people attended the first-time program, including representatives from Catholic Charities Atlanta; St. Andrew Church, Roswell; Prince of Peace Church, Flowery Branch; Immaculate Heart of Mary School, Atlanta; Blessed Trinity High School, Roswell; Marist School, Atlanta; Notre Dame Academy, Duluth; and others.
Bishop David P. Talley, who celebrated Mass in the Chancery chapel, joined the group to talk about Lent as the program began.
Saying “we miss out on the notion of Lent,” Bishop Talley said Lent is not only about repentance—it’s about conversion. He said, “Think of Jesus asking you to change your heart. … Turn toward a world that needs me.”
“Find a way to give the world what it needs,” he said.
One student said that Lent was a good time “to get out of your comfort zone.”
Michael Trujillo, a staff member of CRS in Atlanta, explained what CRS Rice Bowl offers, including a smartphone app and online recipe videos. He said, “Twenty-five percent of the funds collected here” stay in the archdiocese for local use, including help with Catholic Charities Atlanta’s refugee resettlement program.
Last year, about $47,000 was collected, with nearly $12,000 supporting local projects.
Trujillo said, “By using the faith formation resources, Catholics can lift up their prayers, fasting and almsgiving to change the lives of their brothers and sisters both here in the U.S. and around the world.”
He called CRS Rice Bowl “the official Lenten faith-in-action program for Catholics.”
Speaker survived childhood because of CRS school and food program
A talk by Awiapo, a Ghana native, who as a child was a recipient of Catholic Relief Services’ aid, added his life experiences to the program. He told attendees that CRS works in 92 countries around the world, “spreading hope, spreading love.” The organization, he said, helps millions.
Awiapo said, “Behind those huge numbers and figures are real people, real faces.”
“I have received so much, and I am standing here to say thank you,” he said.
He shared his story of growing up in a tiny village in the extreme northern part of Ghana, with no electricity and no running water. His parents passed away; his two younger brothers died, and his older brother ran away. He said, “I went to bed hungry and fought for food.”
CRS came to their area and built a school. They offered food for the children who came to school.
Awiapo humorously said, “I loved that snack. I hated school. I was taken hostage.”
“A little snack to keep you going” they gave the children, and a hot lunch at the end of the day. Every day, he said he walked five miles to get that food.
“Today I’m standing here, full of joy and still alive” because of that food. He said, “How powerful is a little snack. It changed the story of my life.”
Awiapo said, “For me, God was that little snack.”
Rice Bowl, he said, “is a Gospel of love.”