Consider ways to observe Lent Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler, editor   
Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009 -- 1:00 AM

This week we begin the 40-day season of Lent, a time in which Catholics focus our attention on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in preparation for Holy Week and Easter.

Editor's View
Mary C. Uhler

The Catholic Church encourages us to make commitments to change our minds, hearts, and actions during the Lenten season. More frequent attendance at Mass, along with participating in Stations of the Cross and other Lenten services, is encouraged. We should also consider doing penance and participating in positive actions to deepen our faith and love of our neighbor.

Operation Rice Bowl

This year, I have heard of some excellent suggestions for observing the Lenten season. One is participating in Operation Rice Bowl, Catholic Relief Services’ Lenten program which helps fund international and local efforts to fight hunger and poverty. The Operation Rice Bowl funds were put to work in our own Diocese of Madison last year to fund mobile food pantries, which were especially needed during the floods which ravaged parts of our diocese.

If you’re interested in Operation Rice Bowl, go to the CRS Web site at for more information. The "bowl" provided by CRS is actually a cardboard container, but any receptical will work. Basically those participating can save money spent on snacks such as pop, candy, or other nonessentials — or maybe go without a meal. Place these coins or bills into the container throughout Lent.  Then give the money to your parish or the diocesan Office of Justice and Pastoral Outreach.

Got a dime for the poor?

Here’s another idea from Tony Klink, a member of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Madison. He suggests contributing a dime to Operation Rice Bowl every time you make a cell phone call.

Klink's "Got a dime" message says, "During Lent, each of us is encouraged to give sacrificially and reach out to the poor in solidarity. This can be done even as we reach out to our family and friends. Let's remember the least of our brothers and sisters when we make a call to someone we love. Simply add a 10 cent donation to Operation Rice bowl each time we make a cell phone call or text a message during Lent (or donate a dime for a week of calls). 

"In doing so, we share our gratitude to Jesus in a simple way each time we share a conversation with a loved one. This Lenten season and during these economic times, we are challenged to find new and unique ways to incorporate the message of the Cross to our family and friends. This year let's remember Jesus' presence in our life each time we make a call. Everyone can make a difference during Operation Rice Bowl in simple but concrete ways. Got a dime for the poor?"

Carbon fast during Lent

Trudi Jenny of St.Thomas Aquinas Parish in Madison e-mailed me information about the "carbon fast" being proposed for the Lenten season by the Prairie Climate Stewardship Network. A carbon fast means looking for ways to shrink our carbon dioxide emissions. The founder of this network, Renee Gopal of Ashley, N.D., said a carbon fast is relevant to people of faith because they believe that stewardship of creation — taking care of God's world — is one of their responsibilities.

Fr. Paul Schuster, a priest at St. Mark's Catholic Parish in Bottineau, N.D., is participating in the carbon fast and is asking his parishioners to consider making it part of their Lenten practices. The priest said he is making fewer car trips and turning off his computer and television one day a week.

Here are some other suggestions on how to observe the carbon fast:

  • Switch off electrical equipment instead of leaving them on standby.
  • Use the air-dry option on your dishwater.
  • Select cold/cold for your washing machine cycle. Line dry clothes when possible.
  • Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs.

For more suggestions on the carbon fast — which could be done in Lent and continued throughout the year — go to