Families help the poor through Lenten tradition

| Susan Klemond for The Catholic Spirit | February 26, 2014 | 0 Comments

CRS Rice Bowl extends throughout the year

William, Alivia, Megan, Dan and Julia Rohda of St. Thomas Becket in Eagan plan to make meals and participate in other activities through Catholic Relief Services’ Rice Bowl during Lent and throughout the year. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

William, Alivia, Megan, Dan and Julia Rohda of St. Thomas Becket in Eagan plan to make meals and participate in other activities through Catholic Relief Services’ Rice Bowl during Lent and throughout the year. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

When William Rohda compares his life to the lives of the poor, the 12-year-old St. Thomas Becket (Eagan) faith formation student finds it easier to consider how he could share what he has with them this Lent.

“They’re starving right now, and I’m just sitting,” said William, who with his family plans to participate in Catholic Relief Services’ Rice Bowl. “I don’t even give it any thought that I didn’t have to go through any trouble to get this food, just went to the store and bought it.”

When they place the familiar cardboard bowl designed to hold financial contributions in a prominent spot on the kitchen counter this Lent, Dan and Julia Rohda hope it will encourage William and his younger sisters, Alivia and Megan, to have more dinnertime discussions and prayers about what they have and how they can help people who are less fortunate.

Julia, who remembers doing CRS Rice Bowl activities as a kid, said she and Dan want to open their kids’ eyes during Lent and throughout the year to help them realize they can make a difference for the poor. “I want it to be something they think about each day,” she said. “When they have change left over from something, that they will put it there.”

CRS Rice Bowl is a faith-in-action program for parishes, schools and families, traditionally done during Lent, but now encouraging participation throughout the year. Introduced in 1975, it invites Catholics to live in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable through the Lenten pillars of praying, fasting and almsgiving.

CRS is the official international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic community, the overseas relief and development agency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a member of Caritas International and the National Catholic Development Conference.

On crsricebowl.org, there are articles and videos about a different country in need each week, along with gift suggestions, quotes and recipes for meatless dishes from the countries featured.

The roughly 500 youth in St. Thomas Becket’s faith formation program will be involved in Rice Bowl in different ways this Lent through locally- and internationally-focused activities. They’ll also be encouraged to serve the poor in a variety of ways during the year, said Lynn Schelitzche, faith formation director for the Eagan parish.

She hopes CRS Rice Bowl activities give the children a sense of how small the world is. “The experience of faith on the stories and issues we hear around the world put a face on it and make it seem real and apply to our needs close to home,” she said.

Kristin and Tony Sundgaard, parishioners at St. Thomas Becket, started doing Rice Bowl activities with their daughter, Brynn, about eight years ago and have done the Lenten program on and off ever since.

Now with Brynn, 14, and son, Cade, 11, the family prays intentionally at dinner but would like to do more, Kristin said.

“We’ll talk about how we’re grateful for the things we have and how lucky we are,” she said. “We’ll never be wealthy monetarily, but we certainly have a lot of wealth in family and how lucky we are to have what we do have.”

Along with prayer, the family will make small sacrifices, such as giving up coffee or computer time. Said Cade, “Over that time, I’m probably going to try to stay away from my electronics and work on other things like the Rice Bowl project.”

The Sundgaards want their kids to see the faces of people in need in the community and help them not just during Lent, but throughout the year. Kristin hopes it will bring the family closer. “I’m hoping it not only increases awareness, but we become closer as we spend more time actively, intentionally praying together on these things,” she said.

Dan Rohda would like his family to have a thoughtful approach to its prayer, discussions and activities related to Rice Bowl, and consider its own spending priorities.

“When we think about what we don’t have, those are more wants. And these kids [featured in Rice Bowl materials] have true needs,” he said. “We have food. One reason we do Rice Bowl is we don’t want to take it for granted.”

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Category: Featured, Lent