March 28, 2014

Rice Bowl effort offers way to give and show love in Lent

By Briana Stewart

As Margie Pike met with a visitor from Catholic Charities in Indianapolis at the Cathedral Soup Kitchen in Indianapolis, a volunteer interrupted with disheartening news.

The industrial freezer that kept the kitchen functioning for years in the effort to feed the homeless was failing.

“The freezer had been on its last legs, but we hoped it would hold out until we could raise the money for a new one,” said Pike, director of the soup kitchen. “Alas, that was not to be.”

Pike feared that all the frozen food would have to be thrown out. As she excused herself from the meeting, Pike was asked what she would do if the freezer, the heart of the kitchen, could not be replaced.

She could only hope that they could find a used one to keep their doors open, Pike said.

“Soon after that, I received a most welcome and unexpected call [from a Catholic Charities Indianapolis director] that the Rice Bowl donation going back to the archdiocese would be able to help,” Pike recalled. “For us, receiving such a generous gift gave us the opportunity to raise money for other needs.”

As the official Lenten program of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Operation Rice Bowl strives to focus on the three Lenten pillars: praying, fasting and almsgiving, according to Theresa Chamblee, archdiocesan Operation Rice Bowl coordinator and director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).

“Participants journey throughout the 40 days of Lent with the daily reflections included in the Lenten calendar, offering small, suggested, sacrificial gifts to fill their Rice Bowls as they read and watch stories of hope from individuals and communities whose lives have been changed by CRS Rice Bowl,” Chamblee said.

While the Operation Rice Bowl campaign raises money to help people in need around the world, 25 percent of the donations remain in the archdiocese to assist local efforts for the poor.

“The 25 percent enables participants to understand the plight of the poor overseas through the experience of the poor in their communities,” Chamblee explained.

Catholic Relief Services has been around since 1943, originally to serve the soldiers of World War II. It has since expanded to help more than 100 million people from 91 different countries on five continents.

“[The mission] of CRS is to assist impoverished and disadvantaged people overseas,” Chamblee said. “Although our mission is rooted in the Catholic faith, our operations serve people based solely on need, regardless of their race, religion or ethnicity.”

Another organization that has been impacted by the Rice Bowl efforts from last year’s Lenten season lies in the small town of Siberia in the Tell City Deanery in southern Indiana.

Martin’s Cloak Food Pantry is not full of state-of-the-art equipment or brimming with staff members, but it is overflowing with compassion to feed hungry families in the area.

This love of neighbor comes from the founders of the pantry, Leroy and Marlene Oser, who “began this ministry as they saw their neighbors struggling to put food on their tables,” said Joan Hess, director of Catholic Charities Tell City.

Serving between 40 and 50 families every other Saturday, Martin’s Cloak is a primary source of food for the people in the area.

Hess said the donations given by the Rice Bowl in 2013 “greatly improved the bottom line of our pantry. We always try to do a little something extra for our families at Easter. Those funds allowed us to put more protein in the baskets they received.”

Chamblee explained what the Operation Rice Bowl effort means during Lent, a time to give, love and help.

“That little box helps me remember that daily, small sacrifices can go a long way in uniting me with my brothers and sisters in Christ worldwide,” she said. “It has not only taught me about who my neighbor is, but how to love my neighbor.”

(To participate, check with your parish or visit the CRS Rice Bowl website at, or call Theresa Chamblee, archdiocesan Rice Bowl coordinator, at 317-236-1404 or 800-282-9836, ext. 1404.)

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