Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

CRS Photo by Jennifer Hardy/Illustration by Tom Schulte
Domingas da Casta Guteres of Timor-Leste participates in the Effective Seed Storage project of Catholic Relief Services to be able to support her household of nine through gardening. The CRS Rice Bowl program funds this and other projects.


Prayer, fasting and giving guide Catholics during Lenten season

By GEORGIA BULLETIN STAFF | Published February 24, 2021

ATLANTA–Roger Meyer took up cooking when his first wife became ill and he learned to prepare meals for himself and three older children. 

Now, 83, he chuckled while recalling his first meal of “baked SPAM, baked potatoes and frozen peas.”

His children gifted him cookbooks, encouraging him with “let’s try this, let’s try that.” And when a daughter ate vegetarian meals for a year, he stretched himself even farther. He’s got some 100 cookbooks and a collection for recipes from magazines and newspapers in his library to break out of any cooking rut.  

Since becoming Catholic in 2000, Meyer said he intentionally works to keep the spirit as much as the letter of the meatless Friday meal obligation. He and his wife attend Christ Our King and Savior Church, Greensboro, close to an hour and a half east of Atlanta. 

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. On Fridays during Lent, Catholics at least 14 years of age and without certain medical conditions abstain from meat. 

Meyer said it does little good to enjoy pricey meatless meals, such as lobster. Rather, he favors simple dishes, especially something with beans as a good protein source in a nod to his wife’s Cajun heritage.

“If you’re a little bit less than satiated that meal or that you feel hungry during the day, it gives you a chance to concentrate on your relationship with God, maybe you’ll be more likely to meditate or pray,” he said.

Ideas for simple meatless meals and ways to help those in need can be found in the annual tradition of the Lenten Rice Bowl by Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Originally called “Operation Rice Bowl,” the program was created in 1975 by American Catholics to respond to famine in Africa. Since then, CRS Rice Bowl has become a Lenten tradition for millions of Catholic families. 

Resources are available for Catholics of all ages. This includes a calendar for the Lenten season, meatless meals to try at home and a “Stories of Hope” video series that highlights communities in countries that CRS supports.

The CRS Rice Bowl is more of a hybrid this year, explained Kat Doyle, director of Justice and Peace Ministries for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. 

Parishes and ministries can set up their own CRS Rice Bowl page to participate as a community or team,” said Doyle.

A giving page was set up for the Chancery staff of the Atlanta Archdiocese. So far, employees have contributed more than 40 percent of their $2,000 goal. 

Donations received through the program help to alleviate hunger and poverty in communities all over the world and in the United States. Funds are provided in more than 100 countries where CRS provides humanitarian response and programs.

While 75% of the funds are used to help communities in need, 25% of donations are returned to each archdiocese to support hunger and poverty programs. 

In the Archdiocese of Atlanta, funds have been used to support Starve Wars, a meal-packing event, at the annual Eucharistic Congress. With the cancellation of the event due to the coronavirus pandemic, funding has been used in teaching how to advocate for those experiencing hunger or living with food insecurity in local communities.

The CRS Rice Bowl Lenten program helps to teach children “that we are all one human family and that we have responsibility to love our neighbor and care for those who have less than us,” said Doyle.