The Rice Bowl campaign

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. Many of us are familiar with the work of CRS responding to natural disasters across the globe: most recently CRS was front and center in the Philippines in the aftermath of November 2013's Typhoon Haiyan. Well positioned to respond to the immediate needs of those displaced, CRS continues its work in these storm ravaged island communities, committed to assisting in the long term recovery efforts for 100,000 Filipino families as they rebuild their lives. The people of the Archdiocese of Boston generously supported these CRS recovery efforts with its special collection last fall.

But CRS does more than disaster response. Headquartered in Baltimore, CRS is present in 91 countries across the world helping to assist people build sustainable pathways out of poverty. For as long as I can remember, Catholic Relief Services has played an important role in helping us to focus our Lenten journey on the needs of our brothers and sisters across the world through their Rice Bowl campaign. The theme for this year "For Lent, For Life" reminds us all that what we give up for Lent through the Rice Bowl changes lives, not only across the world, but here at home as well. Twenty-five cents of every dollar we in the Archdiocese of Boston donate to Rice Bowl helps fight local hunger and poverty in our communities, while the balance of your gift supports CRS programs around the world.

The Rice Bowl campaign is built around the seven principles of Catholic social teaching.

These principles include:

-- The common good -- the social fabric required for each of us to grow and develop including our responsibility to help one another achieve our highest potential;

-- The sacredness and dignity of the human person;

-- Basic rights and responsibilities including the right to life, food, water and shelter and -- The responsibility to support the rights of others;

-- The option for the poor -- our Gospel driven obligation to reach out to those most in need;

-- The dignity of work and rights of workers including a right to the opportunity to work and earn a living at a fair wage, in good working conditions;

-- A call to live in community with others combined with a duty to seek the well-being of all, especially the poor and the vulnerable, and a call to global solidarity -- our interconnectedness as a human family, regardless of national, racial, religious, economic or ideological differences.

Each week of Lent, the multimedia materials created for the 2014 Rice Bowl focus on the ways in which CRS works in the community by sharing the stories of families from five countries -- Kenya, Guatemala, the Philippines, Malawi and Haiti. With programs ranging from the "My Rights Matter" curriculum which seeks to help parents understand the value of education in Guatemala, where too many children are kept home from school to work as laborers so that families will have enough to eat, to agriculture-focused programs like those in Malawi that help educate farmers to grow product that will sell well at the market, CRS invites each of us to learn more about our global community.

The struggles faced by the five families served by CRS -- finding good jobs, quality education, safe homes and adequate health care -- are universal, and mirror the challenges faced by our friends, families and neighbors here in the United States.

Each and every day, the work of both CRS and Catholic Charities is focused on improving the lives of those in our communities, whether globally or locally. As Catholics, we are each called to this important mission, for as Pope Francis reminded us all in his June 2013 address to the Food and Agricultural Organization, "A way has to be found to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth, and not simply to close the gap between the affluent and those who must be satisfied with the crumbs falling from the table, but above all to satisfy the demands of justice, fairness and respect for every human being."

Deborah Kincade Rambo is president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.

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