By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Students gathered at Assumption High School heard Father John Burke recount the story of the Good Samaritan.
He posed the question “Who is my neighbor?” to the middle and high school students.
Students from 34 schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville were assembled for the kickoff event for Catholic Relief Services’ Rice Bowl campaign.
The luncheon, held annually, educates students from area schools about the work of CRS, the international aid organization of the U.S. bishops. Rice Bowl is a nationwide Lenten fundraiser to support the work of CRS.
Many know the Rice Bowl Lenten alms-giving campaign by the simple cardboard box. Students and families are encouraged to donate what they can, while also learning about the plight of their brothers and sisters around the world.
Lent begins on March 6.
Father Burke, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville, said Jesus’ answer to the question “Who is my neighbor?” is clear.
“Jesus answer is pretty clear that the neighbor is more than a person that lives near you. Rather it’s someone on the side of the road that needs help whether we know them or not,” he said.
What about people we don’t know or don’t feel a personal connection with, Father Burke asked. “What about people who live in foreign countries, immigrants, refugees of war, victims of violence, survivors of floods, famines. Are these not also our neighbor?”
“Jesus tells us, yes. Yes, they are. Whoever is suffering from hunger or homelessness, from poverty or discrimination or imprisonment is our neighbor,” said Father Burke, who is a CRS Global Fellow.
Money donated through the Rice Bowl program support the work of CRS in about 45 countries around the world. And, 25 percent of the donations stays within the local diocese, said Lisa DeJaco Crutcher, CEO of Catholic Charities of Louisville.
Lent is an opportunity, DeJaco Crutcher said, to support “our brothers and sisters most in need around the world.”
“The CRS Rice Bowl invites our families, our communities to journey alongside the Good Samaritan, reflecting on the question ‘Who is our neighbor?’
Many of our neighbors — migrants, refugees, internally displaced people, she said, are on the move.
“The Good Samaritan was a traveler himself and shows us what it means to encounter the stranger, who accompanies someone in need to be a companion on the journey,” she said.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz called the luncheon a “learning experience.”
“I hope that you from the various schools will have an opportunity to interact with someone who is a wonderful presence in the U.S., someone who is a refugee and came from other parts of the world,” the archbishop said.
He urged the students and educators gathered to remember those suffering around the world “not only in our minds and hearts but also in our actions.”
Father Burke recalled countries — including El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Cambodia and India — he’s traveled to as part of his work with CRS.
“The more that I’ve traveled, the more deeply I have become aware that all of us are connected.
“This realization has come from talking to people, getting to know them, hearing their stories and coming to understand that we are not only neighbors but we are also brothers, sisters and remembering that all of us are created in God’s image and likeness,” he said.
Visit crsricebowl.org to learn more about the Lenten program.