Melissa Wheeler
Catholic Relief Services: Rice Bowl
February 22, 2017 // Perspective

What does it mean to encounter others?

Melissa Wheeler
Catholic Relief Services: Rice Bowl

This Lent you are invited to encounter your brothers and sisters around the world through participation in Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl. Throughout our diocese, over 70 parishes, schools and community organizations will encounter their neighbors through this experience of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. For the duration of Lent I will provide you with a weekly reflection based in CRS Rice Bowl. My hope is that these reflections will help all of us to encounter ourselves, our neighbors and our God.

As we begin the journey of Lent, it is important to remember what we are called to do in this liturgical season. Lent is a journey of preparation marked by prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We can deepen our relationship with God through our prayer, which helps us to do some self-reflection. Our practice of fasting helps us to remove any obstacles that exist between us and God. Jesus’s message of love comes to life in our almsgiving which challenges us and helps to serve those who are in need.

CRS Rice Bowl has been a faith-in-action program for families and faith communities for more than 40 years. Through Rice Bowl we hear stories from our brothers and sisters around the world. These stories move us to pray and fast to transform the lives of those who are in need. CRS Rice Bowl can serve as a guide through which the stories of communities around the world are shared as an invitation to go deeper to help change lives.

This year, during the first week of Lent, we will meet the Singh family from India. They are involved with a program to provide kitchen gardens and better seeds for planting, which demonstrates the Catholic social teaching principle of option for the poor and vulnerable. In week two we journey to Zambia to meet Evelina, who is a beneficiary of an initiative that teaches mothers good nutrition for their children, guided by the principle of the dignity of the human person. Week three will take us to El Salvador, where we will encounter Fernando, who dreams of becoming a businessman. Through a CRS program that trains young people for business development, the principle of the dignity of work and the rights of workers are recognized in the story of Fernando.

The story of Maria, in week four, will bring us to Mexico, where the community is involved in a greenhouse project that that empowers women with meaningful work and supports the local economy. Here we will see the principle of the call to community, family and participation that emphasizes the gifts we can share with one another that help our communities to grow. Dita’s story, then, will teach us about the drought in Ethiopia and how local farmers are learning sustainable techniques that will help to feed a whole community. Finally in week six, we encounter our brothers and sisters here in the United States who are able to use CRS Rice Bowl resources to practice the virtue of solidarity. Each year 25 percent of the monetary donations to CRS Rice Bowl stay here in the U.S. to fight hunger.

You can join this journey of global solidarity in several ways. Obtain a Rice Bowl in your parish to use daily: Each Rice Bowl contains a calendar that gives daily reflections and challenges on the Lenten journey. You can also visit to watch videos about featured families and programs. If technology is your preference, you can download the CRS Rice Bowl app to get Lenten inspiration directly on your phone. Resources for CRS Rice Bowl in Spanish can be found at

Melissa Wheeler is the diocesan director for Catholic Relief Services.

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