KIRKLAND – At Holy Family School, Lent began the same way it has for 15 years: Students entered the dimly lit cafeteria on Ash Wednesday to eat a simple lunch of soup, bread and water in prayer and silence.
Although nourishing, “it’s just not as much as we’re used to eating. We’re hungry by the end of the day,” said Jackie Degel, principal of the Kirkland school.
It’s a powerful way for students to start their Lenten journey, Degel said. “Teachers bring that into the classroom, and talk about it throughout Lent.”
The lunch, served by the Holy Family parents’ club, is also a way to raise money for Rice Bowl, a program of Catholic Relief Services that focuses on prayers, fasting and almsgiving to change the lives of those in poverty around the world. With a suggested donation of $4 per student, Holy Family’s event raised more than $900, Degel said.
Throughout Western Washington, parishes and schools are continuing the Seattle Archdiocese’s strong participation in the Rice Bowl program. Last year, J.L. Drouhard and Kelly Hickman of the archdiocese’s Missions Office won a national award for collecting nearly $500,000 in Rice Bowl donations in 2014, with 100 percent of parishes participating. During Lent 2015, Rice Bowl donations topped $528,000.
Living as disciples
At Holy Redeemer Parish in Vancouver, faith formation catechists bring Rice Bowl into the classroom each week by preparing a recipe from another country that’s featured on the Rice Bowl calendar. While the nearly 180 elementary students sample the dish, high school students explain what Rice Bowl is and where the money goes, and give a presentation about the featured person and country, said Jamie Kohler, one of the pastoral assistants for faith formation.
“It was a great experience for the high school students to articulate their faith,” Laura Rodrigues, also a pastoral assistant for faith formation, said about the Feb. 21 session. “They were challenged by the younger children to explain and answer questions about the Rice Bowl, the stories they heard, and how it all ties back with our faith and our call to live as disciples.”
At the end of Lent, a special treat will go to the Holy Redeemer class with the highest participation in donating to Rice Bowl. “We just want to help those who don’t even have basic needs met to eat well,” Kohler said.
Ambassadors for CRS
A new way the archdiocese is participating in Catholic Relief Services’ efforts is through the CRS Parish Ambassador Corps, a pilot program introduced this year in Seattle, Boston and Cleveland.
In the Seattle Archdiocese, 10 parishes have volunteers trained as ambassadors to promote involvement in CRS programs in their parishes at least three times a year. It’s an opportunity to “grow in support of and deepen ways they’re engaged in global solidarity,” said Hickman, assistant director of the Missions Office.
Holy Family in Kirkland, one of the participating parishes, ordered 800 extra Rice Bowls this year in anticipation of greater involvement, said Andrea Liggett, pastoral assistant for social outreach and advocacy. “Awareness has definitely grown” through the ambassador program, she said. To kick off Lent, a CRS ambassador gave a presentation about Rice Bowl to the parish’s 300 faith formation students. “Even when you’re 6, you have spare change to share,” said Hannah Hochkeppel, pastoral assistant for elementary education and sacramental preparation. “We learn concrete ways to live out the practices of Rice Bowl into our daily lives.”
Local, global connections
Holy Family School is planning a second fundraising lunch during Lent, this time to help St. Mary School in Aberdeen, which sustained heavy water damage in January. “While it’s great to give on a global scale and be aware of needs internationally, I appreciate the local feel with ministering to St. Mary’s,” Degel said. “Even if our students never meet another from St. Mary’s, they feel a connection.”
That connection to people, locally and globally, is key to the success of Rice Bowl, Hickman said. Lent is “40 days of intention of really focusing on who we are as Catholic people and our responsibility to our brothers and sisters,” she said.
Most Rice Bowl money collected benefits Catholic Relief Services programs, but 25 percent of donations stay in the Seattle Archdiocese.
Each year, the archdiocese awards Rice Bowl grants to parishes and other organizations that fight hunger and poverty locally. In 2015, the archdiocese awarded 252 grants, each a maximum of $500.
“It’s meant as a seed grant to start a program around hunger in Western Washington,” said Kelly Hickman, assistant director of the archdiocese’s Missions Office.
Applications for 2016 grants will be accepted March 1 through April 29. Application materials (available March 1) and Rice Bowl resources can be downloaded from the Missions Office Rice Bowl website.
The following parishes are participating in the CRS Parish Ambassador Corps pilot program:
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Woodinville
Church of the Assumption, Bellingham
Holy Family, Kirkland
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Seattle
Sacred Heart, Bellevue
St. Anthony, Renton
St. James Cathedral, Seattle
St. John the Baptist, Covington
St. Joseph, Issaquah
St. Mary, Seattle
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