Catholic Relief Services and Lent
The Rice Bowl initiative is the Lenten program of Catholic Relief Services, the official relief and development agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Through CRS’s Rice Bowl, faith communities in every diocese throughout the United States live out the three tenets of Lent—prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Last year, I accepted the “Rice Bowl Challenge” to prepare one of several meatless ethnic dishes that CRS offered on its website. I tapped into my great love of gardening and relished the experience of cooking a vegetarian meal. It reminded me of some of the recipes from my native Brazil. Most of our meals in Brazil have beans, rice, vegetables, and meat. That’s really the basic ingredients for most of the Brazilian meals. Of course, for the “Rice Bowl Challenge,” we leave out the meat, but we pretty much have everything else.
Last year I chose to cook Batar Da’an from East Timor at the Sister Rose House in New Bedford. The Sister Rose House is one of the diocese’s shelters for the homeless. Recognizing the importance of the work this and so many other shelters, like Sister Rose House does, I am planning to revisit once again to assist in preparing and serving a meal.
Operation Rice Bowl
According to the Catholic Relief website, “CRS Rice Bowl is the Lenten program of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the official relief and development agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Through CRS Rice Bowl, faith communities in every diocese throughout the United States put their faith into action through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Lenten alms donated through CRS Rice Bowl support the work of CRS in roughly 45 different countries each year. 25% of all donations to CRS Rice Bowl stay in the local diocese, supporting hunger and poverty alleviation efforts. Since its inception in 1975, CRS Rice Bowl has raised nearly $300 million.”
Many parishes throughout the Fall River Diocese participate in providing and collecting cardboard rice bowls, like the one pictured above. Families can find more Lenten resources and activities on the CRS Website, including ways to serve their community and work together to provide alms to this worthy cause.
The Rite of Election
The Rite of Election is celebrated in diocesan cathedrals annually throughout the world on the First Sunday of Lent. It marks the beginning of the final phase of preparation for those participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults —better known by the acronym RCIA- the process through which adults enter the Catholic Church.
My role during Sunday’s ceremony was to formally acknowledge the readiness of the catechumens—those who are preparing for the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist)—and call them to the reception of the sacraments. Most of these men and women will receive these sacraments in their own parishes during the Easter Vigil on April 11.
In addition, the catechumens express their desire for the sacraments and inscribe their names in what is called the Book of the Elect. For the catechumens, this follows a period of study and reflection on the Word of God; at their pace and with the assistance of parish instructors.
Sunday’s Rite of Election also included the Call to Continuing Conversion for persons called candidates in the RCIA process. Candidates are those who have been baptized in other Christian traditions who now seek to become members of the Catholic Church or baptized Catholics who had no instruction in the faith and are now preparing for Eucharist and confirmation. This ceremony also called for me to seek the approval, from the sponsors of these candidates, for the continuation of their preparation for reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church.
Like all of you, I continue to follow news about the spread of the coronavirus, COVID 19. The CDC states that for the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low. All the same, the situation is of concern and needs to be closely monitored. Out of caution and for the protection of our parishioners, the Diocese recently shared with our priests information as a reminder that:
- At all times those distributing Holy Communion must be mindful of the need for good hygiene, washing their hands before Mass and even using a hand sanitizer before and after distribution of Holy Communion
- Parishioners should be assured that if they are sick or are experiencing symptoms of sickness they are not obliged to attend Mass.
Precautionary measures were also suggested for our parishes: suspending the exchange of the sign of peace or instructing that it be done without physical contact, and suspending the distribution of the Most Precious Blood to the faithful via the chalice during Holy Communion. I think these are sensible measures to be taken during this time of heightened concern over the possible transmission of this coronavirus.
As we ask the Lord for protection from widespread illness, let us also pray for healing for those who are suffering in this current outbreak of sickness and for the repose of those who have died.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha