This year, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) reminds people of the struggles of their brothers and sisters across the globe with their Lenten theme, “Share the Journey.” The CRS Rice Bowl theme is designed to draw attention to the struggles of migrants and refugees fleeing war, persecution, and poverty, all inspired by the campaign launched by Pope Francis last year that bears the same name. In an effort to be an example of solidarity for parishes and homes in the Diocese of Orange, volunteers from Catholic Relief Services and members of the clergy met at Bishop Vann’s house last month to record a video of Lenten preparation where those in attendance cooked two of the Lenten CRS recipes and dined together with Guest of Honor Thomas Awiapo.
“Today, we join our global human family through the CRS rice dish recipes we are about to make,” said Alejandra Estrada, a parish volunteer who helped coordinate the dinner. “Let’s go to the kitchen!”
Alejandra and the other dinner guests cooked black bean soup and okra stew, dishes served by CRS programs in Guatemala and Uganda respectively. The kitchen was filled with the sound of laughter and bright smiles as the group came together as one to prepare their food. “Tears of joy!” Alejandra Estrada teased as she watched Thomas Awiapo wipe his eyes after chopping the onions for the soup.
Both of the recipes that were prepared, as well as the other recipes that CRS promotes, are meatless. The reasoning behind the omission of meat is to assume eating habits more similar to those living in poorer areas of the world and donate the money saved by refraining from buying meat towards the CRS Rice Bowl to feed the hungry. Furthermore, each recipe highlights a country and the story of a person who calls that country home and has received aid from a Catholic Relief Services program.
While reading instructions on how to cook the black bean soup, people can also read the story of Norma, a woman in Guatemala who, while expecting her son, received medical assistance and food from a CRS-sponsored program that helps expectant mothers give their babies a healthy start. While learning how to cook okra stew, readers simultaneously learn more about the housing challenges refugees face in large settlements like Bidi Bidi in Uganda and how 16-year-old Annet handled it while caring for her younger siblings after fleeing their home country of South Sudan due to violence.
Stories like these connect Catholics all around the world that come from vastly different backgrounds and are separated by thousands of miles through something as simple as a meal. “We want to show support and solidarity at a global level for our human family,” Alejandra Estrada said at the dinner table after the food was served. “These CRS rice dishes help us to live a more intense Lenten prayer in fasting and solidarity through our offerings and efforts.”