Published January 7, 2016
SMYRNA—The Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Rice Bowl program will soon begin on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 10—and area Catholic school students will be ready.
Justice and Peace Ministries, in partnership with CRS, held an early kickoff for the annual CRS Rice Bowl Lenten Faith Formation program with students and faculty from Catholic schools on Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, at the archdiocesan Chancery.
Hosting the event were Kathy Montag, CRS archdiocesan capacity building specialist, and Michael Trujillo, CRS relationship manager. Also on hand were Kat Doyle, director of Justice and Peace Ministries, Diane Starkovich, archdiocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, Connie Urbanski, assistant superintendent of Catholic schools, and Senait Tedla, from the CRS regional office.
“In the middle of the summer, Kathy, Michael and I set the goal of engaging at least half of our schools with this program,” said Doyle.
Montag said, “When you add the nine schools present, the three I visited personally, (Blessed Trinity, Our Lady of Mercy, Holy Redeemer) and the one I’ve teleconferenced (Our Lady of Victory), we’ve surpassed that goal!”
Schools represented at the program included Marist School, Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School, Pinecrest Academy, Holy Spirit Prep School, Immaculate Heart of Mary School, St. John Neumann School, Queen of Angels School, Sophia Academy and St. Peter Claver Regional School.
The keynote speaker was Father Desmond Drummer, CRS Global Fellow and parochial vicar at St. Peter Chanel Church, Roswell.
The program began with Mass in the St. Dominic Chapel, followed by a simple Lenten lunch of authentic Mexican rice, beans and tortillas. Father Desmond talked about his time with CRS in Ethiopia and his interactions with the people in the villages and the work that CRS is doing. He shared that the sacrifices made by school children and donations to CRS Rice Bowl save lives all over the world.
Trujillo and Montag then led the entire group in an exercise called “The Power Walk,” which is designed to demonstrate those individuals around the world who have little or no personal power or opportunity to gain personal power contrasted against those who do. The thought-provoking activity led to an interesting discussion.
After the exercise, Trujillo reviewed the new 2016 resources for the CRS Rice Bowl Faith Formation Campaign (www.crsricebowl.org). The students were given the opportunity to brainstorm. Montag held up a huge rice bowl and challenged them to come up with ways to “Make CRS Rice Bowl Bigger” at their schools.
Some of the creative ideas included decorating the church and classroom doors in the style of a featured country, asking the school kitchen staffs to feature the countries’ recipes, using the “Stories of Hope” in classrooms, downloading the app and swapping an app donation for purchasing a cookie, challenges between grades or even schools, and skyping with a school in a featured country. Other ideas included incorporating a food fast, morning prayers or letters to families.
The earlier Power Walk Activity resulted in a revelatory discussion. One student observed that those with power and money like professional athletes or Supreme Court justices, even teachers, exercised immense power over miners in Chile or garment factory workers in Bangladesh. Some of the participants didn’t even get to take a single step forward. One participant remarked that one young lady who’d taken on the role of a single mom with several kids in the Congo, continued to cast her eyes downward as she was never allowed to take a step forward. Many students echoed that they will be using the Power Walk to kick off their own CRS Rice Bowl Lenten Faith Formation Campaign in 2016.
Montag then asked for a commitment from the student leaders, parents and faculty present—to return to their schools, finish finals, enjoy Christmas, and then create a CRS Rice Bowl Planning Committee in January. She asked that committees meet to develop a concrete plan to execute in their schools. Resources and support, she said, are available from Justice and Peace Ministries.
Montag encouraged all present to focus on CRS Rice Bowl as one way of observing the Year of Mercy.
The Archdiocesan CRS Capacity Building Initiative has limited seed grants available to help Catholic schools get started. For more information on this and CRS Rice Bowl, contact Kathy Montag at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-920-7368. The CRS Rice Bowl website is www.crsricebowl.org.