The Privilege of Lenten Sacrifice

Dear Friend,

For many of us, Lent is in our bones. “What are you giving up for Lent?” is as expected this time of year as “What do you want for Christmas?” is in December.

There is, of course, a big difference. The giving and getting part of Christmas can—and has been—exploited by commercial interests. That certainly happens to Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. But you don’t see it once Lent begins. No one takes out an advertisement on TV saying, “Give Up Our Product for Lent!”

So, Lent remains untainted, its religious roots unsullied by secular considerations. Because of that, the question about what we are giving is always provocative. It causes us to think—about sacrifice, about what’s important in our lives, about our priorities—in a way that other seasons do not.

These thoughts are what’s behind our annual CRS Rice Bowl campaign. In asking people to give up something specific and to put the money they saved into their Rice Bowl, we’re asking them to think, to feel, to understand the solidarity that a simple act of sacrifice makes real.

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Immunization, Cucumbers and Civil Society

by Brenda Hegarty

I was digging worms out my cucumber (the African equivalent of ‘organic’ labelling) when my neighbor trundled into my compound with her belly as swollen as a gestating giraffe’s.

“Foreign girl,” she said (a term of endearment…I’m told). “I’m dying. You’ve got to help me.” She sat down on my compost heap and started moaning. “The doctor says I have malaria and typhoid. My head hurts. I’m exhausted. And I can’t move myself in any sense of the word.”

I was surprised. I told her she was the first person I had ever met who had typhoid.

She stared at me. “What are you talking about, you strange creature? Everyone gets typhoid.”

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St. Gabriel’s Student Silence Speaks Volumes for Rice Bowl

The fourth grade class at St. Gabriel Catholic School participated in CRS Rice Bowl with a sponsored silence event, pledging to keep silent for four hours . Photo courtesy of St. Gabriel Catholic School

The fourth grade class at St. Gabriel Catholic School participated in CRS Rice Bowl with a sponsored silence event, pledging to keep silent for four hours. Photo courtesy of St. Gabriel Catholic School

The fourth grade class at St. Gabriel Catholic School in Charlotte, NC had a new way of participating in CRS Rice Bowl – using silence as a way to raise funds. The idea was inspired by the class’ read-aloud book, A Dog Called Homeless, by Sarah Lean, which described a girl who volunteered to do a sponsored silence for the hospice center at St. Jude’s. The idea struck a chord with the students at St. Gabriel’s, so they decided to host a sponsored silence from 8 a.m. to noon on March 19th to raise money for CRS Rice Bowl.

Parents sponsored their children in half-hour increments. So if Jimmy’s mom sponsored him for $3 per half hour and he was silent the whole time, $24 would be contributed to CRS Rice Bowl. The class added up the possible total that could be collected if all the students were silent for the entire four hours, and it came to an astonishing $1,853.00.

On the day of the sponsored silence, the students wore a “Silence Speaks” sticker as their teacher continued lessons as usual, but in a way more adaptable to the silence. The students were incredibly excited and well-informed as to why they were doing this. What a wonderful, creative way to celebrate CRS Rice Bowl.

Build Steps to the Future With CRS Rice Bowl

Dear Friend,

In my work with Catholic Relief Services, I am involved in so many different countries, in so many different aspects of helping the poor. Every day we work with people who are facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles. But they are not insurmountable when you help carve steps into them. At CRS, we know that, together, we can surmount these obstacles one step at a time.

While we often respond to immediate needs—shelter and water after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, for example—our focus is always on the future, on turning relief into recovery and rebuilding.

When I focus on the future, my thoughts naturally turn to children. Because no matter the country or the culture or the economy, aren’t children always the future?

I think of this in this season of Lent, the season of sacrifice. A theme that runs throughout God’s family is the sacrifice that parents everywhere make for their children.

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U.S. Farmers Volunteer to Assist Ugandan Farmers

KAMPALA- U.S. Mission Uganda today announced a program that connects farmers in the United States with their counterparts around the world for training and technical assistance. U.S. Mission Uganda, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), will place 125 American volunteer farmers with projects that assist local farmers in Uganda. The projects under consideration are maize and oil seed crops such as ground nuts, sunflower, and sesame value chains.

Farmer-to-Farmer is 28-year-old flagship USAID program that transforms agricultural sector development through volunteer assistance targeted at small farmers, agribusinesses and associations, and support services enterprises.  This is the first time CRS is partnering with the Farmer-to-Farmer Program. This partnership is a five-year program to include nearly 500 volunteer assignments in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda.

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Join Us in Keeping the Wave of Prayer Going

Dear Friend,

In December, Catholic Relief Services joined people across the globe in Pope Francis’ wave of prayer. In many of the 91 countries we serve, and here at our headquarters in Baltimore, CRS answered the pope’s call by praying for the almost 850 million people who face each day wondering if they will have enough to eat.

It was an inspirational day of prayer, one whose power we must not allow to dissipate.

Ending world hunger is not something we can accomplish in 1 day, 1 month or even 1 year. And it’s not just a matter of giving hungry people food to eat. Ending world hunger is a long-term commitment that requires sustained dedication.

All of us must understand that God will answer that wave of prayer through our hands, through our actions and through his Church. We, the Body of Christ, must commit to following the Gospel command to help those in need, to answer the call of Matthew 25: “For I was hungry and you gave me food.”

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Farmer-to-Farmer: Ohio Ag Connection

The Ohio Ag Connection highlights American Agri-Women’s first international support effort in partnership with CRS’Farmer-to-Farmer program in the article below:

India Polio Free: A World Health Breakthrough

India polio

In Uttar Pradesh in northern India, cases of polio were reported in 2010. Because of misconceptions, some parents are skeptical about the polio vaccine and other vaccinations. A Catholic Relief Services program informs parents of the benefits and encourages them to immunize their children. Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS

India – once considered the hardest place to eradicate polio – celebrates three years without a single “wild” case of the disease.

The milestone opens the World Health Organization to declaring India officially polio free.

India is now a case study for how to mount a successful disease response effort under the most complex circumstances. India’s triumph over polio is a significant public health achievement, leaving a lasting impact on children’s health in India and around the world.

Health officials say it’s now clear that the disease can be eliminated in even the most challenging of circumstances.

India’s success provides confidence, inspiration, and technical guidance for stopping polio in the three remaining countries where polio has never been stopped – Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.

Capitalizing on India’s achievement to end polio globally and protect the health of children everywhere for generations to come should be a high priority for the global community.

Official WHO certification is set for late March and a high-level celebration is planned for 11 February. India’s third polio-free year provides an opportunity to recognize the importance of India’s achievement, highlight the power of vaccines and encourage continued political and financial support for polio eradication.

Worth noting: The few cases that did occur in India in the past 3 years were caused by a rare mutation of the weakened but live virus in the oral polio vaccine (OPV) that can cause paralysis. This happens to 1 out of every 2.7 million children receiving a first dose of OPV.

CRS works to eradicate polio as part of the CORE Group Polio Project.

Related CRS information

Battling Polio On the Streets of India

At the Crossroads in the Polio Wars

Advocacy: A New Year Filled with Hope

Happy New Year! We welcome 2014 and all of the hope and promise for peace it holds for our brothers and sisters throughout the world. What better way to kick off the New Year than with Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace message? In his message, Pope Francis urges us to open our hearts in a new way to our brothers and sisters affected by poverty, hunger, conflicts, migration, inequalities, pollution, underdevelopment, and injustice. When we break free from indifference and see ourselves as members of one human family, we can truly “encounter” one another and build peace.

As we shared with you before the holidays, Congress completed a budget deal for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. With the budget out of the way, Congress returned to work earlier this week to finalize FY14 spending. We have heard good news about refugee funding in response to your actions regarding the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria. While the legislation isn’t final yet, we promise to keep you posted as more details emerge on how some of the spending bills will impact our brothers and sisters who are poor and facing terrible violence in such places as Syria, Central African Republic, and South Sudan.

In addition, Congress still has to pass the Farm Bill. We’ve heard that the conference committee members have been working hard to reach a compromise, and many expect Congress to take up a final bill in the next few weeks. The Catholic Church has worked hard to make sure the legislation does not hurt people who are hungry here at home and abroad, helps family farmers and rural communities, and promotes care of creation. Your efforts over the past year have made an impact and we hope to have good news to report on the Farm Bill very soon.

Already, we’re off to a busy 2014 confronting global poverty. Thank you for your ongoing commitment.

Three Words for the New Year: Faith. Action. Results.

Dear Friend,

In the 2 years since I was honored and humbled to become president of Catholic Relief Services, we have conducted a thorough self-examination to see how we can best serve the poor in the coming decades.

In all of this work, there was probably nothing more difficult than coming up with a new tagline for CRS. How do you boil down all that we do in a few words?

I would like to take this opportunity to meditate on the words we chose.

Faith. This is fundamental. CRS does not exist without faith. It is why we do what we do—because we believe that we have been given life in order to be of service.

Everything CRS does links back to our faith, to our Church. When we make difficult decisions, we do so in an atmosphere of prayerful reflection. We seek to understand how we can best embody and exemplify our faith in the Gospels, our belief in the message of redemption that the son of God brought to us.

Faith is our cornerstone. Faith is our foundation.

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