Operation Rice Bowl Continues Lenten Tradition of Giving

Two students at St. Mary’s ITI, Alangudy display the newly bought MIG (Metallic Irate Grate) welding machine. (Photo courtesy of Father Santiago John Kennedy)

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 in 1975.

A total of $6,338,249 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, Monsignor 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, Monsignor 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.

Monsignor Murphy forwards the collection to Mark Smith, secretary of the Diocesan Secretariat for Temporal Affairs and chief financial officer, and then to Bishop Alfred Schlert.

Edward Liszka is administrative assistant for the Propagation of the Faith and St. Peter the Apostle Fund in the Diocese of Allentown.

“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 Monsignor 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.”

Monsignor Murphy said Operation Rice bore $163,199.29 plus bank interest of $139.41 for the 2018 program. After $4,360.55 for 2018 expenses and $4,600 reserve for 2019, there was $154,378.15 for distribution.

Father Santiago John Kennedy, secretary of the Jubilee 2000 Educational Society, St. Mary’s Industrial Training Institute Campus, Tamil Nadu, India, received $2,000 for training youngsters in various trades.

Father Kennedy said with the help of Operation Rice Bowl funds in the past four years, “We succeeded in opening the long-awaited new trade ‘welding section’ in our ITI campus from August 2018.”

Father Kennedy said from the proceeds sent from Operation Rice Bowl, they met the expenses of constructing the lab with the following machines: TIG (Tungsten Irate Gas) welding machine, MIG (Metallic Irate Gas) welding machine, electrode oven, portable cutting machine and grinding machine.

They are able to maintain their cutting and sewing section from the help received through Operation Rice Bowl.
Father Kennedy said the ITI campus was damaged by the recent tropical storm Kaja on Nov. 15, 2018. Though there were no human causalities, the storm broke 300 coconuts and other fruit trees in the campus that were main sources of income to maintain the hostel expenses.

“It demolished some portions of compound wall and also caused major damages to power and water supply system,” he said.

“While we still expect the mission proceeds to come to our hands from your office, we struggle to spend a lot on rebuilding.”

Further needs focus on two projects.

First, “We struggle to buy the following machines for the next semester: spot welding machine, silicon arc welding machine (air-cooling), power hack sawing machine and arc welding (oil-cooling),” Father Kennedy said.
The other project is the plan to generate a solar panel with 10 kilowatts for their electrical needs.

“We appreciate sincerely your continued support by including our group in the Missionary Co-Op plan 2019,” Father Kennedy wrote in letter to Liszka.

Liszka said he will be sending Father Kennedy an invitation to return this summer to give his mission talk at some of the parishes in the Diocese of Allentown, as this is the yearly Missionary Co-Op Plan for the Diocese in 2019.

Other programs that received grants from 2018 Operation Rice Bowl were:
Diocese of Allentown, $39,021.06.
Catholic Relief Services, $47,857.29.
Missionaries of Charity of St. Teresa of Calcutta, $20,000.
Venezuelan Hammitarian Mission, $22,000.
Eight other mission groups, including Father Kennedy’s mission, received a combined total of $16,000, including Angelic Sisters of St. Paul who serve in Easton in the Diocese of Allentown; Diocese of Koothavakkam, India; Pearl Academy, Father Kumar, India; and Pastoral Evangelization and Children Organization (PEACE), which oversees the educational needs of the students in their schools.

Also, Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary, Bryn Mawr, Archdiocese of Philadelphia; Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Reading; and Sisters of Christ the Light, Sister Agnes Mather, India, who teach hearing impaired children.
Bishop’s Discretionary Fund, $7,500.
For more information on Operation Rice Bowl, contact Liszka at ed@stmchurchallentown.org.