Mark Bouchard of Catholic Charities earns national award

Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the international aid organization of the United States bishops, presented a national award to Louisville’s Mark Bouchard Feb. 1.

Bouchard, coordinator of advocacy, education and national programs for Catholic Charities of Louisville, received CRS’ 2014 Rice Bowl Award in Washington, D.C. He and other local representatives of Catholic Charities are in Washington this week for the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering.

A press release from CRS explained that the award is presented annually to “a diocesan partner who shows dedication and leadership in using the CRS Rice Bowl Lenten program to deepen the Lenten experience of the diocesan community while serving those in need worldwide.”

The 39-year-old lenten fundraiser supports efforts to curb hunger and poverty around the world.

“Mark brings his commitment to social justice and charity to bear in his partnership with CRS,” said Joan Rosenhauer, the organization’s executive vice president of U.S. operations. “He is a strong voice for those who are voiceless in the world. CRS Rice Bowl is about bringing Lent to life and Mark does a tremendous job at this.”

Bouchard is credited with engaging 100 parishes and schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville in the annual Rice Bowl collection last year.

CRS specifically recognized a program Bouchard created to engage students in the fundraiser.

Each year, Bouchard and other Catholic Charities staff members organize a school luncheon to launch the CRS Rice Bowl season. The event gathers students and teachers from about 30 schools who have lunch with refugees aided by Catholic Charities. Last year, the luncheon’s keynote speaker was a CRS staffer from Africa who spoke about how CRS helped him and about his work with the CRS in the present day.

This year’s event will be held at Holy Cross High School on Feb. 19. The keynote speaker will be CRS program manager Peter Kimeu. He will discuss his childhood of malnutrition and his work with CRS in Kenya.

The release from CRS said, “This event has evolved into a highpoint leading up to the season of Lent and serves as a model for engaging youth in faith forming activities that are both interesting and relevant to the community.”

A majority of the funds collected by the Rice Bowl fundraiser are distributed in 91 countries oversees. About 25 percent of the funds remains in the archdiocese to help reduce hunger and poverty locally, the release said.

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