OCHOA: A Lent for Life

February 22, 2022

María Ermelinda Vásquez Ramírez, 40, and Ovidio Gutiérrez Ramos, 43, are seen at a corn field that is recovering from drought at Lagunetas Community in San Juan la Hermita Municipality, Chiquimula, Guatemala, assisted by Catholic Relief Services' project Superamos. (Photo by Oscar Leiva/Silverlight for Catholic Relief Services)

We are quickly approaching the annual season of Lent. Following the thrilling Olympics and the exciting Super Bowl, we enter into a time of faith-filled reflection.

For a six-week period, we recall Jesus’s 40 days in the desert, withstanding the temptations of power, control and satisfaction. We remember His betrayal, His acceptance of the Father’s will, His forgiveness at His crucifixion, and the glorious resurrection that gives us all hope.

We have many parish traditions, like the weekly recitation of the Stations of the Cross and the penitential services that guide us during this season. Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the U.S. bishops’ official arm for international humanitarian assistance, offers us additional programs to enrich our Lenten experience. With the theme “For Lent for Life,” CRS Rice Bowl reminds us that our prayers, fasting and almsgiving can be life-giving for our suffering brothers and sisters around the world.

At crsricebowl.org, free resources are available for order. Materials are organized for families, parishes, dioceses, universities and students in grades first to eighth and ninth to 12th. This year, “Stories of Hope” of families in Bangladesh, Rwanda and Guatemala are featured, expanding our awareness of the joys and struggles of those who live beyond our borders. Vivid videos, accompanied by insightful interviews, take us to international locations where CRS programs are in place.

Lenten recipes reflect simple meals that are typical for the residents of the featured countries. Three virtual events such as an Ash Wednesday event, a bilingual Stations of the Cross video, calendar guides and reflection questions on the meaning of Lent and almsgiving are additional tools to enliven Lent in our homes and parishes. A social media kit is included, enabling the resources to be further distributed.

Since CRS has been offering life-saving assistance worldwide for 75 years, our almsgiving will support an established network of dedicated people with proven solutions for real problems. Training for improved farming techniques, small business assistance, maternal/child healthcare, along with direct food distribution and disaster assistance are some of the ways CRS carries out the works of mercy across the continents.

In addition, 25% of the Rice Bowl collection remains in the participating dioceses for the alleviation of local hunger and other basic needs. Grants for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston are distributed through the Mission Office.

As we pray, we draw ourselves more deeply into our connection to God, the creator and sustainer of life. We continue with the traditions that have been used by believers through the centuries. As we fast, we grow in compassion for those who experience hunger on a regular basis. When we contribute, we realize our great blessings and respond to God’s command to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty.

Participating in the CRS Rice Bowl program will enhance our Lenten experience, adding a global perspective.

Lent 2022 will truly be a “Lent for Life.” 

Hilda Ochoa is the director of the Office of Missions.