Middle school students at Catholic schools around the Archdiocese of Louisville gathered at St. Xavier High School Feb. 12 for the Rice Bowl luncheon.
The luncheon, held annually, educates students from area schools about the work of Catholic Relief Services, the international aid organization of the U.S. Catholic bishops. CRS Rice Bowl is a nationwide Lenten fundraiser to support the work of CRS.
The small cardboard box made to resemble the shape of a bowl is a staple for many Catholic families across the U.S. during Lent. The Rice Bowl boxes that collect loose change and bills are available in parishes and schools now with Lent beginning next week.
Students and their parish and school representatives sat with international guests, some of whom have been resettled as refugees by Catholic Charities of Louisville. Over a simple lunch of pizza slices and soda, the students were able to ask their guests about their lives before coming to the U.S., and to hear their stories.
Lenten alms donated through the Rice Bowl program go to support the work of CRS in 45 different countries each year, including Vietnam, Kenya and Honduras, said Martha-Maria Morales, the community engagement manager for the southeast region of CRS.
Morales told the 300 or so students, including 49 international guests that their efforts to pray, fast, learn and give alms positively improves the lives of countless people in some of the most impoverished nations on earth.
“We are brothers and sisters. We are all connected one way or another,” she said. “All the work that you are doing here in the United States improves and affects so many lives and families overseas.”
Twenty-five percent of all donations collected through the Rice Bowl Lenten program stay in the community in which the funds were collected. Last year, parishes and schools in the archdiocese collected more than $109,000. Of that, $27,300 were distributed to agencies and ministries located within the archdiocese.
The Bowling Park Community Meal in Edmonton, Ky., the Bread of Life Food Pantry in Bardstown, Ky., The Caring Place, Feeding America in Elizabethtown, Ky., and the St. John Center for Homeless Men each received a $5,000 grant from the local CRS proceeds. Sitio Clothing Ministry located at St. John Vianney Church received $2,300.
Thomas Awiapo, who previously spoke at the Rice Bowl Luncheon in Louisville in 2013 and 2014 shared his story of survival in his native Ghana.
Awiapo and his three brothers were left orphaned and without food at a very young age. His two younger brothers succumbed to their malnourished plight and died. CRS eventually established a school and outreach ministry in his village, which Awiapo credits with saving his young life.
“You may be wondering if it — the Rice Bowl — makes a difference. And, the answer is YES. Yes, it does,” he told the school children in his Ghanian accent.
Awiapo said if it weren’t for the cardboard box and thousands of school children like the ones who sat before him, he would not be the person he is today. Awiapo, now a father of four, works for CRS in Ghana.
Following his presentation, students from St. Xavier, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Stephen Martyr and Holy Trinity highlighted information on ways to aid in CRS’ efforts to bring basic life necessities to the poor and vulnerable both locally and globally.
Additional Lenten resources can be found on CRS website — crsricebowl.org — including meal ideas, stories of hope and Lenten reflections.