Catholic Diocese of Cleveland

1404 East 9th Street | Cleveland, Ohio 44114

‘Encounter Lent’ with CRS Rice Bowl

Lent is under way, but it’s not too late to participate in CRS Rice Bowl. Coordinated by Catholic Relief Services, the program invites people “to journey alongside the good Samaritan, to reflect on the question: Who is my neighbor?”

Some of our neighbors could be people on the move: migrants, refugees, internally displaced persons or travelers. According to CRS Rice Bowl literature, “The good Samaritan — a traveler himself, on the move — shows us what it means to encounter the stranger, to accompany one in need and become a companion on the journey.”

Many parishes and schools throughout the eight-county Diocese of Cleveland once again are participating in CRS Rice Bowl, according to Kelly Davis, diocesan CRS director. Each participant receives a small, cardboard “rice bowl” that includes a Lenten calendar with featured recipes from five countries, information about the country, Lenten prayers and reflections, as well as other resources.

Kelly said the intent is that families will follow the pillars of Lent — prayer, fasting and almsgiving — through the CRS Rice Bowl program. It started as Operation Rice Bowl in 1975 in Allentown, Pennsylvania to help combat famine in Africa. In 1976, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted it as a national program and in 1977, USCCB made it the official program of CRS.

Participants can read the weekly “Story of Hope,” which focuses on a person or family from each of the five countries highlighted this year, as a family each Sunday. Then they can set aside five minutes daily for the reflections on Jesus’ life and example (offered on the Lenten calendar), prepare and share a simple, meatless meal from one of the countries on Friday (or another day during the week) and place their monetary Lenten sacrifices  in the cardboard “rice bowl.”

At the end of Lent, rice bowls are returned to the parish or school, or a secure, online donation can be made at There even is a CRS Rice Bowl app that can be installed on smartphones.

“This year, the program focuses on Iraq, Nicaragua, Burkina Faso, Haiti and Malawi,” Kelly said. There is a simple, meatless recipe provided that would typically be eaten in that country, she said. The recipe for Iraq is lablabi (chickpea) soup; sopa de queso (cheese soup) for Nicaragua; bean cakes for Burkina Faso; Haitian vegetable stew for Haiti; and ujeni ndiwo (vegetables with rice) for Malawi.

St. Rita Parish in Solon and Prince of Peace Parish in Barberton recently hosted CRS Rice Bowl brunches to allow people to try the recipes. Diane Zbasnik, director of the diocesan Social Action Office, said attendees enjoyed sampling the foods.

“The recipes were easy to make and the ingredients can be found in most stores,” she said. Diane said she particularly enjoyed the Haitian vegetable stew.

“These recipes are what people in these countries eat for lunch or dinner,” Kelly said. She is hoping to create greater awareness for CRS and CRS Rice Bowl in order to help benefit the work being done by CRS staff members in more than 112 countries around the world.

According to information from CRS Rice Bowl, $1 per day for the 40 days of Lent helps provide a month of food for a family, two years of seed for a farmer and an emergency kit for refugees. Kelly said 75 percent of CRS Rice Bowl proceeds support CRS programs worldwide, while the other 25 percent is used to alleviate hunger and poverty within our diocese through the Catholic Charities Emergency Hunger and Shelter fund.












Haitian vegetable stew


Makes 6 servings


4 scallions, chopped

6 sprigs parsley

4 sprigs fresh thyme, stems removed

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

1 teaspoon salt


Vegetable stew:

1 tablespoon fair trade olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 carrots, sliced

1 chayote squash, peeled and chopped

1 small eggplant, peeled and chopped

3 c cabbage, chopped

1 15-ounce can of coconut milk

4 cups water or vegetable broth (or more, as needed)

1 large tomato, chopped

Salt to taste


For the seasoning, mix first six ingredients in a food processor and set aside. Sauté onions, carrots, squash, eggplant and cabbage in oil in large pan for 3-4 minutes. Add coconut milk and 3 cups broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, or until soft. Add tomatoes and continue to simmer. Add more broth if the mixture appears too dry. Add seasoning to simmering vegetables and cook one minute. Mash vegetables with a large fork. Season with salt, to taste.












Sopa de queso (cheese soup)


Makes 6 servings


1 large onion, sliced

2 green peppers, sliced

2 red tomatoes, sliced

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1 bunch mint

4 cups whole milk

2½ cups Maseca

Pinch of salt

3 cups queso fresco or farmer’s cheese, grated

1½ tablespoons  achiote paste

1 tablespoon fair trade olive oil

1 cup vegetable oil

In a large pot, boil 4 cups water. Add onion, pepper, tomatoes, garlic and mint. Simmer until cooked. Meanwhile, combine Maseca and 2 cups water in a mixing bowl. Knead to form a dough. Mix 1 tablespoon  olive oil into achiote paste. Mix cheese, salt and achiote paste into dough. Take 1 cup of dough and place in separate bowl; stir in ½ cup water. Set aside the rest of the dough to make fritters. In a separate pot, bring milk to a boil. Remove mint and discard half of the vegetables from the first pot. Then, add the dough-and-water mixture and boiled milk to the pot, and salt to taste. Stir and turn off heat.

To make the fritters, form the remaining dough into palm-sized circles. Fry in oil until crispy and brown. Garnish the soup with mint, and serve with rice and fritters.

Recipes used with permission of CRS Rice Bowl


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Phone: 216-696-6525 | 1-800-869-6525 (Toll Free in Ohio)