By Celine Klosterman
IOWA CITY – To promote CRS Rice Bowl, parishes can serve meals from countries helped by Rice Bowl funds, invite grant recipients to speak during Mass, or share the testimony of parishioners who enjoyed volunteering for the program.
Catholics shared those ideas and others at St. Patrick Church during a Jan. 25 breakfast that kicked off CRS Rice Bowl in the Davenport Diocese. Catholic Relief Services administers the Lenten program, which encourages prayer, fasting, almsgiving and awareness of global poverty.
Attending the breakfast were about 45 parish Rice Bowl coordinators, including Kathy and Jim McCoy of Davenport, who are retiring after 10 years as volunteer Rice Bowl coordinators for the diocese.
Every year, more organizations in southeast Iowa request Rice Bowl grants, Kathy McCoy said. Twenty-five percent of funds collected in the diocese stay in the diocese; 75 percent go to CRS programs around the world.
“We’ve been amazed at the generosity, especially from small, rural parishes,” she said. But “we need this collection to grow. We know we have hunger here in our communities.”
Grant recipients in 2013 included food pantries, parish social action committees and community organizations throughout southeast Iowa. In all, 17 grants totaling $12,375 were awarded.
In Coralville, St. Thomas More Parish’s Social Action Commission has used Rice Bowl grants to help fund community meals for people in need, said Cecilia Roudabush, the commission’s chair.
But for the Rice Bowl program to succeed, parishes need to do more than leave materials at the back of the church for Mass-goers to pick up, noted Teresa Dunbar, relationship manager for CRS Midwest. Even a phone call from the diocesan Rice Bowl coordinator, who can share ideas with the parish coordinator, makes a difference, she said.
Father Greg Steckel, who serves at parishes in West Branch and West Liberty, encouraged attendees to provide Rice Bowl-related prayers of the faithful for their parishes’ Lenten liturgies. He also demonstrated how pastors could bless cardboard Rice Bowls during Mass for families to take home and fill with cash or check donations.
This year, CRS Rice Bowl is spotlighting the countries of Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Guatemala and the Philippines. The diocese has raised $99,000 for CRS’ relief efforts in the Philippines since Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the island nation on Nov. 7, said Kent Ferris, diocesan director of social action. Father Joseph Sia, administrator of parishes in Columbus Junction and West Liberty, is a Filipino native who helped promote the collection.
Guatemalans also benefit from CRS programs, said Deacon Dave Reha of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Iowa City. Earlier this month he visited the country, where his daughter Sister Anna Marie Reha, SSND, has ministered, and saw subsistence farmers and entrenched poverty. He is willing to speak to parishes about Guatemala: contact him at (319) 936-0978 or email@example.com.
For Melody Hobert-Mellecker of St. Joseph Parish in Hills, the issue of poverty is personal. “I remember feeling hungry as a kid,” she said. “I tried to forget that feeling all my adult life, only to become Catholic 14 years ago and find out there are people who are even hungrier than I was.” She thus supports CRS Rice Bowl.
“One of the most fulfilling things I’ve done is help the hungry, shut-ins, the lonely and the dying,” said Ron Jarzombek of St. Mary’s in Mechanicsville. “The more we help those people, the more we are blessed. Jesus tells us to do that … That’s why I’m here.”
For more information, visit www.crsricebowl.org or contact Loxi Hopkins at (563) 888-4212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.