Rice Bowl grants benefit New Jersey residents

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Fifth grade religious education students of Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Cape May Court House tend the community garden outside the church. The garden, which provides fresh produce to the needy, was recently awarded a grant from the Camden Diocesan Office of Life and Justice Ministries.

Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 26, parishes and schools throughout the Diocese of Camden will distribute Catholic Relief Services’ Rice Bowls to students and families to encourage prayer, fasting and almsgiving in support of needy families around the world during the Lenten season.

Earlier this month, the diocesan Office of Life and Justice Ministries sent out Rice Bowl grants to 19 local applicants (17 of which are parishes), totaling $35,550, to “enact or supplement initiatives aimed at helping people who are hungry,” said Matt Davis, diocesan director of Life and Justice.

These funds represent 25% of the diocesan Rice Bowl collection from last year, he continued.

One recipient of the grant was Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Cape May Court House, which received $500 for their four-year-old community garden.

Next to the church, the 28 plots provides fresh vegetables that stock the parish food pantry, which feeds needy families every week. 

Next month, parishioners young and old will begin to prepare for the upcoming year, planting such crops as peas, broccoli and cauliflower, according to Joanne Kelly, director of Faith Formation for Our Lady of the Angels and one of those responsible for the garden’s genesis.

“This garden is an inter-generational service activity,” she said, noting that religious education students are required to put in hours in the soil before confirmation.

“Father John O’Leary (pastor) is a big gardener. He’s out there, working alongside his faithful,” she said.

The garden is a “parish bonding activity,” Davis said. “It gets people off their phones and working with nature. As Catholics, we are called to care for our neighbor, locally and globally. Our Lady of the Angels promotes dignity, health and unity with their garden.”

On Wednesdays during spring, summer, and fall, the parish community will gather the vegetables and bring them to the food pantry. The next day, hungry families will come in for the fresh produce.

Kelly said she will use the $500 for mushroom soil, plants and seeds.

In addition to the funds for the garden, the parish also received a $2,500 grant for their mobile ministry, which brings food to the hungry’s doorstep.

For more information on Catholic Relief Services’ upcoming Rice Bowl campaign, visit www.crsricebowl.org or www.crsplatodearroz.org