Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Operation Rice Bowl in Albany

Operation Rice Bowl (ORB) is the official Lenten program of Catholic Relief Services, and calls Catholics in the United States to reach out in solidarity with the poor around the world through the traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, learning, and giving. By participating in these four activities, we come to understand our call to be a part of one global community. This is from the latest ORB e-mail. By coincidence, it involves Albany.
As we enter Holy Week we are reminded of the needs near at hand as we visit a couple in the Diocese of Albany, New York, whose status changed from care givers to the recipients of care in the matter of a few years. In Albany County, which is part of the diocese, 12,205 people have disabilities about 6.5 percent of the population according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Of this number, more than half are unemployed though they are of working age, 16 to 65.


Palm Sunday is filled with ironic acts. We walk into church waving palm leaves to enact a moment when Jesus entered Jerusalem to the shouts of Hosanna. Then we tell the story of his torture and execution. We look down the path of Holy Week, knowing that we must walk with Jesus through the agony of Good Friday and wait beside the tomb on Holy Saturday. Yet in the middle of the story, even as Jesus himself anticipates his end, we celebrate with him a victory meal: the last supper of his life, the first of our lives as disciples. Each time you celebrate Eucharist this week, prayerfully call to mind all who still hunger for Easter hope, who long for something new, who daily walk to a cross erected by injustice. As you walk with Christ, walk with them. As you enter the Easter celebration, ask God to empower you to work even more stridently for justice near at hand and far from home


This is our week of fasting, of putting regular tasks and obligations aside to immerse ourselves in Jesus' walk to the cross. We will recount the story of long waiting. We will light candles, experience darkness, wash feet and walk in silence. On Friday, we will go without our Eucharistic celebration. We will be hungry. With busy schedules and family obligations, with Easter responsibilities looming, it can be hard to find the time to attend all the Holy Week liturgies. As part of your fast this week, resist the temptation to fill the time with other things. Spend part of each day in vigil with the suffering Christ and those he came to save.


In 1998, Michael and Gail Chase were caregivers. They owned a day care center and were foster parents. But that changed when an illness caused Michael to lose the use of his legs. Then Gail became disabled under the strain of Michael's care. Suddenly they were among those who must rely on the care of others. They moved to Albany, NY, where there were more services for people with disabilities, and they found care in the form of the St. John's-St. Anne's Center. An outreach of St. John's-St. Anne's Catholic Church, the center provides food, furniture, outreach, referrals, and holiday and summer programs for neighborhoods in Albany's South End. Through the center the Chases received monthly food deliveries and located a wheelchair-accessible home in a safe neighborhood. The center's staff also guided them to a local program that provided part-time work and a college education. Now Michael is working to finish the degree he began in the late1990s and Gail plans to begin a degree program in liberal arts.


For the last six weeks you have been urged to collect money in your cardboard Rice Bowl as a Lenten act of almsgiving. Seventy-five percent of the money collected through this Lenten Program goes to support CRS sponsored hunger programs worldwide. Twenty-five percent will stay in your diocese to fight hunger there. During Holy Week consider dropping a dollar a day into your Rice Bowl.

You can learn more here.

Labels: ,