By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor
In places around the world where human dignity is suffering, the church offers aid to lift up the human person, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz told about 200 Catholic school students and a group of refugees assisted by Catholic Charities of Louisville Feb. 23.
The students and refugees, who chatted with one another as they dined on pizza, were gathered at Sacred Heart Academy to launch CRS Rice Bowl, the perennial Lenten fundraiser for Catholic Relief Services (CRS).
The agency is the U.S. church’s international counterpart to the domestic Catholic Charities agencies. Its fundraiser centers on cardboard boxes — meant to represent a simple bowl of rice — that collect household donations throughout Lent.
Archbishop Kurtz, who offered some opening comments at the event organized by Catholic Charities of Louisville, noted that as the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2013 to 2016 he
visited parts of the world that had suffered various crises — from natural disasters to violence. And in each of those places, he told his listeners, “Guess who I met there? CRS.”
“Pretty much wherever you go in the world, where dignity needs to be restored, you will find Catholic Relief Services.”
CRS currently operates in 117 countries around the globe and is assisting more than 100 million people, said Sean Callahan, the agency’s new president and CEO. He succeeded Dr. Carolyn Woo as head of CRS in January.
Callahan told students that CRS aims to “save, protect and transform lives.” And students can play a part in this work by participating in the Rice Bowl campaign, he said.
“You are part of a team that is reaching people around the world; we are part of the American Catholic Church,” he said.
Callahan explained that CRS responds to natural disasters within days of a crisis, providing such necessities as shelter and clean water.
The agency also works on long-term projects, such as building economic opportunities in South America and providing health programs to prevent malaria in West Africa.
He urged his young listeners to take part in CRS’ mission during Lent by following the advice of Pope Francis to promote a “culture of encounter.”
“Encounter Lent” is the theme of the CRS Rice Bowl campaign this year. It’s meant to encourage people to “encounter ourselves, our neighbors and our God anew,” a press release from CRS said.
Callahan asked the students to encounter and recognize Christ “disguised” as our neighbors at their luncheon tables and throughout the world by learning about other cultures and through the three pillars of Lent — prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
“Encounter is seeing ‘the other’ in a new way, a different way,” he said. “The encounter is with Christ and we see Christ in all these people we work with. We see Christ in disguise.”
Students from St. Stephen Martyr School have already begun to encounter CRS and the people it helps.
Each year, eighth-graders at the school research CRS and study the countries where CRS serves. This year, the students presented their findings on tri-fold poster boards to luncheon attendees in the lobby of Sacred Heart.
They’ll also present their projects to the school and parish community tomorrow, March 3, in a “Rice Bowl Village” from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the school gym.
Principal Bridgett Britt said, “Our students want to give each visitor a little idea of how these Rice Bowl funds help people around the world. It is one way our school helps teach our students the importance of giving during the Lenten season.”
After the luncheon, Sacred Heart senior Emily Azzara said she was grateful for the encounter provided by the event, especially the opportunity to have lunch with refugees.
“You can’t really get one-on-one with a refugee everyday,” she said.