This Lenten season Catholic Relief Services is asking Catholics to remember the Gospel story of the feeding of the 5,000, as it observes the 45th anniversary of CRS Rice Bowl.

Just as the modest amount of five loaves and two fish was multiplied to be shared by thousands, small sacrifices add up to make a big difference in the lives of people throughout the world.

This is one of the lessons CRS Rice Bowl brings to families each year when they use the popular Lenten program. “CRS Rice Bowl is a great way for families to understand that people around the world have similar hopes and dreams but some need our support and assistance to reach those dreams,” said Beth Martin, CRS director for mission and mobilization.

Every year Catholic families from 14,000 communities throughout the country are using nearly 4 million rice bowls for almsgiving, which are turned in at the end of Lent.  Those small sacrifices add up — raising nearly $12 million annually.

Seventy-five percent of every donation goes to CRS programming in targeted countries worldwide while 25 percent remains in the local Diocese from which the donation came, supporting initiatives that help alleviate poverty.

“We can all be inspired by the miracle Jesus per- formed in the Gospel story of the loaves and fishes,” Martin said. “CRS Rice Bowl gives us the opportunity to experience God’s love when we share what we have with those in need.”


Fried Plantains and Beans

Democratic Republic of Congo

  • 6 ripe green plantains • Salt to taste • 6 tablespoons Fair Trade olive oil

For Beans

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped • 2 tablespoons Fair Trade olive oil • Two 16-ounce cans of black beans, drained • 1 large tomato, chopped • Paprika and chili pepper to taste

Peel plantains and cut into thin slices. Lightly salt both sides. Pour oil into pan and heat. Carefully place each plantain slice into oil and fry each side until golden. Drain on rack or paper towel.

In a large pan, sauté onion in oil, then add beans, tomato, paprika and chili pepper. Cook over low heat until hot. Serve with plantains.

Crispy Pancakes


For Pancakes

  • 1 c rice flour
1 c water
1 c coconut milk
1⁄2 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
1 scallion, sliced thin Oil (for cooking)

For Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham)

  • 6 Tbsp warm water 2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp sh sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced 1 red chili, minced

For The Filling

  • 2 c fresh bean sprouts
1⁄2 lb small shrimp, peeled
6 scallions, sliced
Mint and cilantro for garnish

For the Vietnamese Rice Flour Pancakes

Mix all pancake batter ingredients together in a large bowl until smooth. Let the mixture stand for 30 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients. For e Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham) Mix all the dipping sauce ingredients. Set aside.

To Prepare the Filling

Preheat a 9 inch, non-stick skillet with a lid over medium heat. Add the bean sprouts and cook until most of the moisture has evaporated. Remove the sprouts from the pan and set aside. Increase the heat to medium high. Add 1 tsp of oil to the skillet. Add the shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes, until cooked through. Add the scallions and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Remove the mixture from the pan and set aside.

To Make the Pancakes

Add 1⁄2 tsp of oil to the skillet (if it looks dry) and pour about 1⁄2 c of the batter into the hot pan, tilting the pan quickly to create an even layer of batter that coats the pan. Distribute some of the cooked lling and bean sprouts over half of the batter and cover
the skillet for 2-3 minutes, until the edges begin
to brown. Remove the lid and reduce the heat to medium, cooking until the bottom of the pancake is crispy, 3-5 minutes. Once the bottom of the pancake is golden and crispy, fold the pancake in half over the filling. Transfer to a plate and serve. Continue with the remaining batter and filling, adding a little oil as needed before pouring the batter.


—Originally published in the Spring 2020 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.