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CRS Rice Bowl Lenten Story of Hope: Week Two

March 5, 2024

From the Office for Social Ministry

For almost the past 50 years CRS Rice Bowl has been an official Lenten program of the US Catholic Conference of Bishops and a cherished Lenten tradition for millions of Catholics across the United States to support people struggling with hunger and poverty at home and around the world. In 2023, nearly 13,000 Catholic parishes and schools across the U.S. participated in CRS Rice Bowl, supporting the work of CRS in more than 120 different countries each year. CRS Rice Bowl is more than just a simple cardboard box; it symbolizes a commitment to solidarity and compassion. As families gather around their tables, they are reminded of the shared responsibility to alleviate suffering and foster hope in communities worldwide. The box also serves as a path for spiritual growth while helping us practice the Lenten pillars of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The Rice Bowl box comes with a Lenten Calendar inside that guides us through the 40 days of Lent with activities, reflections, and stories of hope, which show examples of the communities where Rice Bowl almsgiving is changing lives.

The second Lenten Rice Bowl Story of Hope this year is about the farming family of Sandra and Santos Amaya in El Salvador Central America.In Sandra and Santos Amaya’s home in Morazán, everyone helps with the chores. Early in the morning Sandra lights the firewood to cook, prepares coffee and sweeps the chicken coop. Oscar, her eldest son, helps make breakfast before walking nearly two hours to his high school. Nine-year-old Gamaliel grinds corn and, after having breakfast, goes to school accompanied by his father Santos and his little brother, Caleb.  Santos is a farmer, but longer droughts and unpredictable rains have reduced his harvests and, therefore, his income. Seeking to earn extra money, Sandra began selling bread, tamales and empanadas. When she heard about a Catholic Relief Services project on raising chickens, Sandra didn’t hesitate to join. She learned about preparing food for chickens and that they eat better if they are in a pen. She also learned how to vaccinate and take care of them if they get sick.   

As soon as Sandra received some chickens from the project, she began to apply her knowledge. Now her family has access to their own eggs, which saves them money on food, especially now that prices are so high. In addition, her family eats healthier because they can eat a variety of foods, instead of just beans or tortillas with salt.   Sandra wants to keep learning and Santos supports her. “I made the decision to be a promoter because I wanted to have new knowledge; no one can take knowledge away from you,” she says. “I discussed it with my husband and he agreed.” When she travels far to attend a training, Santos takes care of the children. Upon her return, Sandra enjoys supporting other families by teaching them everything she learned.  Our Catholic faith teaches us how important it is to live in community for our growth and fulfillment. We believe that all people should participate in society, seeking the well-being of all, especially that of our sisters and brothers in need, just as Sandra does. 

Twenty-five percent of donations to CRS Rice Bowl stay in the local diocese that help feed and house those in need, for example through our “One ‘Ohana: Food and Housing for all” social ministries initiative here in Hawaii. For more on CRS Rice Bowl please visit www.crsricebowl.org  As we go through Lent together let us keep in mind the following Rice Bowl prayer: “Dear Jesus, You call us, as members of the body of Christ, to serve one another. This Lent, may we be your eyes, to see with compassion. May we be your hands and feet, to serve with love. By encountering you in the Bread of Life, may we joyfully share bread for life with all members of our global families. Amen.” Mahalo.