By JESSICA ABLE, Record Staff Writer
Standing united with our brothers and sisters in Christ, wherever they may be, can transform the world.
This is the message students heard from Laura Dills at the sixth annual Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Rice Bowl Luncheon, hosted by Catholic Charities of Louisville, Feb. 8 at Presentation Academy.
Dills, a 1994 graduate of Presentation and a programming director for CRS, was also announced as the next president of the all-girls school in downtown Louisville during the luncheon.
Dills said Presentation taught her discipline and instilled a sense of confidence in herself at an early age.
“I want to make sure that’s available to more girls,” she said in an interview prior to the luncheon. “I want Pres girls to have the opportunity to celebrate diversity. That’s what the real world looks like.”
That real-world diversity has been central to her nearly 15 years at CRS.
CRS is the international aid organization of the U.S. Catholic bishops. And the Rice Bowl program is a nationwide Lenten fundraiser to support the work of CRS.
For many, Lent is synonymous with the CRS cardboard boxes. The bowl-shaped box with a place to insert coins is meant to represent a simple bowl of rice, a typical meal in places where CRS serves.
Speaking to the crowd of 265 people — primarily Catholic school students — assembled in Presentation’s Athletics & Arts Building, Dills said solidarity means unity. She noted the 40 or so international visitors who were seated at the tables with students at the luncheon and said, “even though they might come from another country, they might speak another language, they might have different experiences, we are in solidarity with them.”
“I think this is really important to understand — that solidarity can transform the world,” she said.
With the support of school and parish communities, Dills noted, CRS is able to assist individuals and families all around the world.
CRS operates in more than 100 countries on five continents and has helped more than 120 million people, according to statistics from CRS.org.
“You are in solidarity with the people we work with on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “If you contributed to CRS Rice Bowl in prayer, in fasting, in giving, you also contributed to the spreading of solidarity around the world.”
Lisa DeJaco Crutcher, the chief executive officer of Catholic Charities of Louisville, reminded the students that “Lent is a time of encounter — a season to deepen our relationships with ourselves, with our neighbors, with our God.”
“It is a time of preparation and transformation not only providing us the opportunity to deepen and enrich our faith as a family and as a Catholic community but also to support our brothers and sisters most in need around the world.”
CRS Rice Bowl, DeJaco Crutcher said, is a guide through which the stories of communities around the world can be shared.
“It’s an invitation through which our prayers and Lenten sacrifices can change lives,” she said.
She invited the students and parishioners to “journey alongside the Good Samaritan” and “to reflect on the question ‘Who is my neighbor?’ ”
“So many of our neighbors are on the move: migrants, refugees, internally displaced persons, travelers. The Good Samaritan, a traveler himself, one on the move, shows us what it means to encounter the stranger, to accompany one in need, to become a companion on the journey,” DeJaco Crutcher said.
Last year the Archdiocese of Louisville contributed $93,000 for the CRS Rice Bowl, she said. Three-quarters of that money went to global relief efforts of the international aid organization. And, 25 percent of that figure remained here in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
Dills, who will take the helm at Presentation Aug. 1, is a graduate of the former St. Aloysius School in Shepherdsville, Ky., Presentation, Spalding University and American University. Following her studies, she entered the Peace Corps and later joined CRS. With CRS, she has served in Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, India, Haiti, Madagascar and most recently in East Africa.
While it’s bittersweet to conclude her time at CRS, she said, she looks forward to leading Presentation Academy.
“I want to continue to grow and renovate campus and get our recruitment back up,” she said. “I want to lead young women into the future, into a global society.”