Rice Bowl donations at work in diocese

By Maureen Smith
Many families made the CRS Rice Bowl a part of their Lenten sacrifice, but may have forgotten to actually turn in their collections. Catholic Relief Services says it’s not too late. Rice Bowl money can be submitted until August 31. Since the beginning of CRS Rice Bowl in 1975, donations have been designated to support both local and global hunger and poverty alleviation efforts. Seventy-five percent of the revenue comes to CRS to support development projects overseas while 25 percent remains in dioceses in the U.S. to support local hunger and poverty alleviation efforts. In the Diocese of Jackson, the money is distributed out of the Catholic Charities office in Vardaman. Jettie Pettit, who runs that office, shared with Mississippi Catholic the story of one family who benefitted from the generosity of its neighbors.
On May 6, Lorenzo Villanueva came to my office asking for help to pay his electric bill. Clients must fill out a form telling us what emergency left them in need of aid. When I read his response, I asked if he would tell me his story. On February 14, he was taking his wife out to eat for Valentine’s day and to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary.

They were also celebrating something else: His wife had had a miscarriage the second year of their marriage and was told that she would not be able to have a child because of damage to her womb. He said they had prayed for a miracle and God had blessed them by letting his wife become pregnant. On the night of their celebration, Selena was almost eight months pregnant and everything was looking good. As Villanueva pulled out from a stop sign, a speeding car ran into them on the passenger side. He was thrown from the car and suffered cuts, bruises and a broken arm. He tried to get his wife out of the car, but had to wait for the ‘jaws of life.’ At the hospital, doctors told him that Selena had no brain activity and was clinically dead. At this point, both he and I were crying.
The doctor detected a fetal heartbeat, so Selena was put on life support until the fate of the unborn child could be known. On February 16, doctors delivered five-pound-three-ounce Sofia and placed her in her father’s arms. Then, Lorenzo held his wife’s hand as the machines were turned off and she died. Sofia had to stay in the hospital for three weeks due to breathing problems while Lorenzo buried her mother and tried to alternate his time between a few hours work and many hours at the hospital. Due to hospital bills and minimum work, he got behind on his bills. Thanks to Rice Bowl funding, we were able to get him caught up on his utility bills. Father and adorable daughter are learning to go on with their lives.
Any family that wishes to make a donation to this year’s Rice Bowl collection can submit it to their parish or submit it directly to CRS and the agency will send the diocesan share to Catholic Charities. Find out more at www.crsricebowl.org.