Operation Rice Bowl Continues Lenten Tradition of Giving

Casa Sollievo della Sofferenzza, the hospital founded by Padre Pio, in San Giovanni Rotondo, is benefitting from the generosity of the faithful in the Diocese of Allentown through Operation Rice Bowl.

By TAMI QUIGLEY Staff writer

The sight of a small, cardboard container shaped like a rice bowl placed in the dining room or kitchen has been a common sight during Lent for families in the Diocese of Allentown since Operation Rice Bowl began 1975.

A total of $6,174,910 has been collected through Operation Rice Bowl in the Diocese since 1976.

A simple sight, a simple plan – but it helps so many people around the world. That’s the miracle of Operation Rice Bowl.

And the miracle continues today.

It’s become a Lenten staple that families or groups eat a simple meal one day a week during Lent and contribute the funds that would have been spent on a more elaborate meal to Operation Rice Bowl to aid the world’s hungry.

Together with a rabbi and three ministers, Msgr. Robert Coll – pastor emeritus of Assumption BVM, Bethlehem, now retired to Naples, Florida – first organized Operation Rice Bowl as an ecumenical response to the African drought of 1974-75.

Each Wednesday during Lent, families in Allentown would hold a simple meal and place the savings from the meal into a “rice” bowl. The families would then place their offerings in a special bowl at their house of worship. Through Operation Rice Bowl, families or other groups enhance the Lenten experience through prayer, fasting, learning and giving.

Since 1980, Msgr. John Murphy, director of Operation Rice Bowl in the Allentown Diocese and director of the Diocesan Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States, has supervised the Operation Rice Bowl collection in the Allentown Diocese. Msgr. Murphy subsequently forwards the collection to Mark Smith, secretary of the Diocesan Secretariat for Temporal Affairs and chief financial officer, and then to Bishop Alfred Schlert.

“The cross tells us of one who waits around the bend to bear our burden or even to lift us up if we fall, but he does not force any person to follow his way. The choice is ours … it is mine, yours, up to each of us,” said Msgr. Murphy, pastor of St. Thomas More, Allentown.

“The cross continually reminds us that the victim on the cross was God’s only begotten son. He taught us to love one another as he loves us.

“There is one Gospel, one truth, one Lord. And the same Lord who cried out, ‘Father into your hands I commend my spirit’ was the same Lord who said ‘whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters you do unto me.’

“The people of the Diocese of Allentown each year generously, lovingly and unselfishly give their all to Christ so that they may give Christ to all.”

Msgr. Murphy said Operation Rice Bowl bore $147,527.65 last year. After $3,799.97 for 2017 expenses and $4,000 reserve for 2018, there was $139,848.04 for distribution.

Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (Home for Relief of the Suffering) received $10,000. It is a private hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, founded by St. Pio of Pietrelinca (Padre Pio).

Inaugurated May 5, 1956, the hospital has adopted modern technologies and is considered one of the most efficient in Italy and Europe. It is known for its exceptional hygiene. The building is situated in the highest part of the city.

Bishop Schlert visited the Archbishop there and the hospital while he was in Italy for a Bishop’s conference.

“The work they do is amazing, and they deserve our financial help,” said Edward Liszka, administrative assistant for the Propagation of the Faith and St. Peter the Apostle Fund in the Diocese of Allentown.

Other programs that received grants from 2017 Operation Rice Bowl were:

  • Diocese of Allentown, $26,848.04.
  • Catholic Relief Services, $33,000.
  • Missionaries of Charity of St. Teresa of Calcutta, which has some sisters serving in Mahanoy City in the Diocese of Allentown, $10,000. These funds are used for caring for the poorest of the poor in India and remembers the gracious and charitable work that St. Teresa of Calcutta (commonly known as Mother Teresa), did during her lifetime.
  • Angelic Sisters of St. Paul, who serve in Easton in the Diocese of Allentown, $2,500. The sisters serve God’s people in many ministries. In the Philippines, they own and run the Mother of Divine Province School. Marikina is a Catholic preschool, grade school and high school for boys and girls recognized by the Department of Education and is a member of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines.
  • Diocese of Virac, Cattanduanes, Philippines, $2,500. Eighty-seven percent of the people live below the poverty line. Missionaries continuously attend to the spiritual and pastoral needs of the Catholic faithful. The Diocese is journeying to its 50th year in 2024, preaching the Gospel of the Lord.
  • Adrian Dominican Sisters, in Michigan, $2,500. The sisters have been involved in foreign missionary efforts for more than 60 years. Presently they are ministering in the Dominican Republic and the Philippines. Their missionary work includes working with the poor in primary and secondary education, working with the sick, abused and imprisoned, as well as pastoral ministry and family work.
  • Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary, in Bryn Mawr, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, $2,500. Initially founded in 1924 for the education of women in Nigeria to educate, heal and do pastoral, social and community development work, they are an exclusive missionary society working in nine countries of Africa and in Brazil and Mexico.
  • Diocese of Pathanamthitta, India (Syro-Malankar Rite), $2,500. This is a new Diocese serving 14 million people in the country and 45,000 Catholic faithful. The priority of the Diocese is to provide formation to 63 seminarians to the priesthood, to strengthen the existing rural missions, and to provide support for humanitarian activities, such as care for autistic children, men with physical and mental disabilities, and inmates of the destitute home for senior women centers of the Diocese.
  • Dominican Sisters of Charity, $2,500. The sisters teach in a school in the village called Sahdara, Pakistan, and 800 students attend school there. They also care for orphans, the sick and families with financial needs.
  • School Sisters of St. Francis, Pittsburgh, $2,500. The sisters’ specific mission is to minister to the needs of people through teaching and other ministries.
  • There are two mission countries, Barberton, South Africa and Kazakhstan in Central Asia, where the sisters operate a home at St. John’s Mission for the children who have HIV/AIDS. They also educate students who cannot go to local schools, and provide catechesis, proper nutrition and medication. They also try to unite them with family members.
  • The sisters also work in predominantly Muslim countries and provide the Catholics living there medical care, clothing, food and at times shelter.
  • SSVM Missions (Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara), $2,500. The sisters have been working in the United States since 1994, mostly with Hispanic communities in poor areas of Phoenix, Arizona; Brooklyn and Harlem, New York; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Philadelphia and Avondale; and Washington, D.C. They also do mission work throughout the world, including Africa, South America, the Holy Land and Eastern Europe.
  • Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of Christ, $2,500. The sisters do mission work in the continent of Africa, serving Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Tchad; and many places in Europe. In the United States they serve in the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois; Syracuse, New York; Gallup, New Mexico; St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Anchorage, Alaska; Phoenix, Arizona; Des Moines, Iowa; Belleville, Illinois; and Petersburg, Florida.
  • Diocese of Altoona/Johnstown, $10,000. This Diocese is unable to do charitable works due to its recent struggles.
  • Bernardine Franciscan Sisters, $2,500. Sister Joelle Mrozoski, a former teacher at St. Thomas More School, Allentown, is doing mission work in Puerto Rico. She reached out to the parish and the Diocese of Allentown for assistance.
  • Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee, $10,000 to building fund for the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
  • Bishop’s Discretionary Fund, $5,000.

For information on Operation Rice Bowl, email Liszka by clicking here.