Best Practices from CRS Partners in the United States

Here are some unique methods, activities and techniques your colleagues across the United States are using to build capacity and engage their dioceses and communities in CRS programs. You are doing great work, so share your best practices with us after reviewing the practices below.


Erin Cordle, CRS Diocesan Director, Diocese of Columbus

When a CRS Bowl Isn’t a Rice Bowl

The CRS Rice Bowl collection bowls are a wonderful tool to use during the Lenten season. A youth group at St. Michael Catholic Church (Diocese of Columbus) found a great new use for the bowls. They use them at Halloween on “beggars’ night.” Instead of going house to house asking for candy (the traditional treat), they ask for donations to CRS hunger programs. These kids are thinking outside of the box with the CRS Rice Bowl little collection box.

Caring About Hunger—It’s in the Bag

The CRS Food Fast program has been popular in the Lancaster, Ohio area for years. The kids at St. Mark Catholic Church (Diocese of Columbus) share their concern about hunger with area residents through their food collection efforts during their Food Fast retreat. On Friday night, the kids blanket several areas with grocery bags and fliers explaining their weekend retreat and request that residents put groceries in the bags to be picked up on Saturday. At mid-morning and mid-afternoon on Saturday, the kids collect the bags from their neighbors’ front porches. The collected food is stacked around the church altar for the Saturday evening Mass. The food is blessed and is distributed through the church’s food pantry. The kids are blessed and commissioned to continue their work to support the “least among them.”

Small Steps Making a Big Difference

When Msgr. James Ruef saw pictures of the impromptu tent city growing around a Chinese arena after the earthquake in May, he said, “I want to buy a tent for a Chinese family.” He contacted the local CRS diocesan director for information. CRS identified that a “first shelter” family tent could be purchased for $125.00 and sleeping bags could be purchased for $20.00 each. Armed with this information, Msgr. Ruef, pastor of Holy Name Catholic Church (Diocese of Columbus), challenged his parishioners to match his donation of a tent or sleeping bags. Many parishioners responded, and the funds were forwarded to CRS. It is so easy to become overwhelmed by the magnitude of many disasters. Msgr. Ruef was able to break the need into manageable terms, and his parishioners responded.

Building Global Solidarity One Brick at a Time

The students at Sacred Heart Elementary School (New Philadelphia, Catholic Diocese of Columbus) have learned enough about disasters and rebuilding efforts to know that they want to help. The Student Council took on the long-term project of raising $2,500 to build a home overseas in an area affected by a disaster. Principal Scott Power commented, “This was quite a lofty goal for a modest school of families of modest means, so we knew it would take some time.” They decided that they would do this project in addition to carrying out their other responsibilities that included continued contributions to the diocesan missions office, the local community Share-a-Christmas fund, collections for the parish food pantry, and so forth. The “Build-a-House” project had to be above and beyond what they typically try to accomplish. As a visual reminder of the project, every time an additional $100.00 was raised, a new brick was added to the house being “built” on the landing of the school stairway. The final brick was added when $2,500.00 was collected.

Except for a couple of bake sales, contributions to “Build-a-House” were from free will offerings. Students stop in the office daily to drop in coins instead of buying extra treats after lunch. Parents and staff drop in pocket change regularly. One fifth grader dropped in a rather generous contribution of paper money which the principal later realized, after speaking with his mother, was his entire allowance for the month. When the principal asked him if he was sure he wanted to donate so much, he responded that the poor people needed it more than he did. These students are a great example of Christ’s love in action.


Diocese of Memphis

CRS Rice Bowl Museum in Memphis: St. Anne School 5th and 6th graders worked with the 2nd grade religion class to create the exhibit and presented it to the school and the parish.

Full Story: Mrs. Mary Perez is a religion teacher at a small pre-K–8 school located near the University of Memphis serving students across Memphis and from Mississippi. She describes her school as 50 percent African-American, 49 percent Caucasian, and 1 percent mix of other races and ethnicities, all dedicated to serving the whole child in a Catholic environment. Many of their students receive free/reduced lunch and are on scholarship.


Anne Ayella, CRS Diocesan Director, Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Community Outreach Program: “Serve Rather Than Be Served”
COPeration Rice Bowl
Catherine T. Fitzgerald, M.Ed
Community Outreach Program
Program Director (610) 543-5512

To celebrate the Archdiocese’s Bicentennial Season of Service, the Community Outreach Program (COP) turned the table to serve rather than be served.

COP is a program of adults with developmental challenges who live within the community either alone or with a caregiver.

Catherine T. Fitzgerald, the Program Director, noticed that COP was listed as a program that would benefit from volunteer service in the Season of Service listing.

She discussed it with Danielle Szymanski, Program Assistant, and the COP members (COPers) and instead of receiving help, the COP Community Caring Group voted to participate in our own “COPeration Rice Bowl.” Many COPers were involved, including the discussion group that assisted in coordinating along with the Famous Thursday Group did role playing to practice, and then visited the archdiocese’s staff to describe how CRS Rice Bowl helps hungry people all over the world.

COPers asked if staff would like to voluntarily contribute. The Computer Research Group and the Computer Project Group designed an information flyer for the event and a thank-you certificate for those who donated.

In addition to Community Caring, COPers are active in programs including continued learning, cooking skills, healthy lifestyles, money management, and relationship building.

As people of God’s creation, COPers care and raised $251.57 for CRS Rice Bowl.


J.L. Drouhard, CRS Diocesan Director, Archdiocese of Seattle

St John Vianney Parish in Kirkland, WA in the Archdiocese of Seattle did a very creative thing last year. The parish issued “micro loans” of $25 each to the 4th, 5th, and 6th grade religious education classes, and challenged them to use the loan to raise money for CRS Rice Bowl. One class bought ingredients for cakes and cookies, baked them, and sold them at a bake sale. One class bought a $25 Starbucks gift card and raffled it off for $1.00/ticket. They raised a ton of money!

High School Ideas in Archdiocese of Seattle

A science teacher with dyed hair running around a school building is not the first image that comes to mind when thinking about almsgiving, but this unlikely scene at Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy High School in Everett actually raised more than $1,000 for those in need around the world.

The stunt was one of the “services” up for bid in a school-wide auction to raise money during Lent for Catholic Relief Services, the official overseas relief and development agency working on behalf of the Catholic community in the United States.

Throughout Lent, Catholic high schools around the archdiocese found fun and creative ways to support the work of CRS in more than 40 developing countries around the globe and to help alleviate hunger in dioceses of the United States.

Having fun, raising funds

In addition to the auction, which raised more than $3,500 on bids for homework passes, parking spaces, brownies and a Mexican-themed fiesta among other goods and services, Archbishop Murphy High School held other activities and events to raise money for CRS development projects. In all, the school raised more than $8,000 during Lent.

“Every teacher, every homeroom, every club creates activities where you can actually spend your money,” said Margaret Ames, a theology teacher at the school, “and all that money that is donated and spent goes directly to the Rice Bowl. So I call it ‘fun raising,’ and it’s fun.”

Nicole Mizuha, a math teacher at Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle, integrated fundraising for CRS into a math-themed competition between her five classes. Mizuha tracked donations given by each class on five large graphs on the back wall of her classroom. While her algebra students calculated the average amount donated by each student, more advanced students used mathematical modeling to try to approximate the graphs and predict which class would end up giving the most. Her 91 math students donated more than $2,500.