Posts Tagged ‘Lent’

Lesotho’s Lenten Lesson

Monday, February 29th, 2016

Dear Friends,


Maabisi Phooko, a 71-year-old widow in Lesotho, tends to her keyhole garden, a resilient CRS innovation which she uses to help care for her three orphaned grandchildren.  Photo by Kim Pozniak/CRS

I want to tell you about a small country in southern Africa that you may have never heard of. It’s Lesotho (that’s pronounced li-SOO-too). Encircled entirely by South Africa, Lesotho was isolated during the decades of apartheid.

Its poverty is extreme. More than 40% of its 2 million people live on less than $1.25 a day. It also has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world at more than 23%. Many of its men left home to work in the mines of South Africa. Gone for months at a time, they often brought the virus back with their paychecks.

And now, on top of these problems, Lesotho faces a devastating drought brought on by El Nino. As CRS Country Representative Rita Billingsley told CBS News a few weeks ago, this is not like the drought in California, where a lack of rainfall might mean you can’t wash your car or water your lawn. This drought means you cannot feed your children.

Lesotho is not alone. Countries throughout southern and East Africa are dealing with the effects of this strong El Nino. The rain it brings can be capricious—coming down hard enough to turn the landscape green, but not with enough consistency to grow nutritious crops.

Just to the north of Lesotho, in Zimbabwe, the situation is similar. “I harvested nothing last year,” says Fortunate Maangla, a mother of four living in the rural countryside of Zimbabwe. “We’ll be dead if somebody doesn’t help us.”

At this point, even if the rains returned, small farmers like Fortunate have no seeds to plant and no money to buy seeds.

During this Lenten season, the stories of people like Fortunate make me realize the privileges we enjoy. We can choose to sacrifice, to be reminded of the suffering that our Lord endured. So many people in so many places around the world do not have that privilege.

We can learn so much from people like these. Despite their hardships, they get up day after day after day, hoping that whatever small meal they can put together will help their families through, and that tomorrow will be better.

This is what Lent reminds us of: that tomorrow will be better. It leads us to the Passion narrative, the darkest moments for our Lord and his followers, ending on the magnificent Easter Sunday when the cry “He is risen!” resounded in Jerusalem. As we know, those words eventually resounded around the entire world, giving us all a message of sacrifice, of redemption and of hope.

Hope is so powerful. In the United States, we can feel it in this season when the earth itself trumpets forth that message, awakening from its winter slumber. It is a triumphant proclamation of hope for the most important, most precious and, indeed, the most miraculous gift from God—the gift of life itself. It is this gift that unites us all, whether we are rich or poor, whether we speak English or Spanish or Urdu, whether our skin is black or white or red or brown or tan or whatever color God makes it. It is the gift that makes us all brethren in the family of God.

CRS RiceBowl 50 TINT and GRADIENT PMS377

CRS RiceBowl is a program of Lenten solidarity and Easter joy for Catholics all across the United States.

So much of what we do during Lent is an affirmation of hope. For all of you who participate in CRS Rice Bowl, every penny put in that bowl, every inexpensive meal you serve, every faith lesson you contemplate, expresses that hope in the redemption Easter will bring.

With your support, we at Catholic Relief Services deliver hope all around the world. Today we are working with the people of Lesotho, Zimbabwe and many other countries affected by El Nino—countries already suffering from climate change—to bring them food, water and better agriculture.

The miracle of redemption happens because we are the hands of the risen Jesus, digging the soil, planting the seeds, giving them water and reaping their bounty. Join with us and harvest the hope of this season.

May blessings overflow,

Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
President & CEO

CRS Rice Bowl Enters a New Era

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Dear Friend,

Sek jo fan mei is a common greeting in my home city of Hong Kong, a way of saying, “How are you?” But its literal meaning is, “Have you eaten today?” Luckily, most of us can reply Sek jo la, which means, “Yes, I’ve eaten, I’m well.”

But that is not the case for more than 800 million people across the globe. Far too many people wake up each morning not knowing if they will have enough to eat.

Lent will begin in 2 weeks, ushering in a new era for CRS Rice Bowl, a program that links Catholics in the United States with our poorest brothers and sisters thousands of miles away.

We have revamped this venerable campaign, making it more relevant for the millions it reaches each year with its message of sacrifice and hope. We hope you will join us this Lent.

Operation Rice Bowl Opens Us to Love of God and Neighbor

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Dear Friends,

The Lenten season is full of discussion about sacrifice, what it means and how it connects you and me to the selflessness that is at the center of our commitment to Christ.

Consider what Pope Benedict XVI said in his Lenten message this year about fasting and the other sacrifices we make for Lent:

By rendering our table poorer, we learn to overcome selfishness in order to live in the logic of gift and love; by bearing some form of deprivation—and not just what is in excess—we learn to look away from our “ego”… and to recognize God in the face of so many brothers and sisters.

“For Christians,” the Holy Father said, “fasting, far from being depressing, opens us ever more to God and to the needs of others, thus allowing love of God to become also love of our neighbor.”

Excerpts From Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for Lent 2011

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Photo by Josh Estey for CRS

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Lenten period, which leads us to the celebration of Holy Easter, is for the Church a most valuable and important liturgical time, in view of which I am pleased to offer a specific word in order that it may be lived with due diligence. As she awaits the definitive encounter with her Spouse in the eternal Easter, the Church community, assiduous in prayer and charitable works, intensifies her journey in purifying the spirit, so as to draw more abundantly from the Mystery of Redemption the new life in Christ the Lord.

Students Have a Taste for Operation Rice Bowl

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Students at a Tampa Bay school get a taste of another culture while participating in Operation Rice Bowl and learning lessons of the Lenten season.

The 35-Year Operation Rice Bowl Tradition

Thursday, March 18th, 2010
ORB tradition

Msgr. Joe Ciampaglio holds an Operation Rice Bowl bank while talking about Catholic Relief Services at St. Ambrose parish in Cheverly, MD. Photo by Jim Stipe for CRS

St. Ambrose Parish in Cheverly, MD kicked off Operation Rice Bowl this Lenten season by hosting Msgr. Joe Ciampaglio, a CRS Global Fellow. Msgr. Ciampaglio shared how participation in Operation Rice Bowl helps support Catholic Relief Services development projects around the world. St. Ambrose Parish joins Catholic Relief Services and more than 13,000 other faith communities in the United States in a 35-year tradition of praying with our families and faith communities; fasting in solidarity with those who hunger; learning about our global community and the challenges of poverty around the world, and giving sacrificial contributions to those in need.

How Does ORB Differ from a Typical Second Collection?

Monday, March 15th, 2010
ORB collection

CRS staff members reading an opening prayer before a Lenten meal of soup, bread and water at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Photo by David Snyder for CRS

Operation Rice Bowl is not just about putting money in a Rice Bowl during Lent. It combines four equally important components: praying, fasting, learning and giving. The alms are collected in the home or in the parish during Lent as one part of the program. Alms are a part of our Lenten sacrifice that includes praying and fasting. With the help of materials such as the Lenten Calendar, Operation Rice Bowl participants have a daily guide for prayer and fasting in solidarity with the poor. In addition to giving alms, participants also have the opportunity to learn more about the developing world and to deepen their Lenten experience with spiritual reflection.

Operation Rice Bowl’s ‘World Awareness Quiz’

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Find out how well you know the world. Take the ORB World Awareness Quiz.

Catholics Help Farmers in Ethiopia Via Operation Rice Bowl

Monday, March 8th, 2010

Lane Bunkers, CRS’ country representative in Ethiopia, talks about how programs like Operation Rice Bowl enable Catholics in the U.S. to contribute to much needed development programs in poor countries.

Rainfall patterns in Ethiopia are changing, much as they are all around the world. Previously, farmers could rely on two distinct rainy seasons each year but that’s not the case anymore. We’re also entering our third year of drought conditions which further complicates the growing cycles for these farmers.

Creative Ways to Serve Meatless Dishes This Lent

Thursday, March 4th, 2010
ORB meal

This Operation Rice Bowl recipe is papa with chakalaka (corn porridge with spicy vegetables) from Lesotho. Photo by Jim Stipe/CRS

Operation Rice Bowl offers easy recipes from around the world using food staples like rice, beans and vegetables from developing countries. Preparing these dishes together allows Catholic families to observe Lent and experience a simple meal while learning about places where people live on less than $2 a day – and where meat is often considered a luxury. Donate the money you would have spent on a big meal, and you can support development projects that improve people’s ability to access food in communities in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the United States. All of the recipes are basic, simple and meatless, and take very little time to prepare. For dozens of recipes, including dishes from Bolivia, Afghanistan and Lesotho, visit