Encuentro participants lend helping hands to hungry
GRAPEVINE — One purpose of V Encuentro is to more fully engage Hispanics in the U.S. in service to the Catholic Church. Even at the national conference, held Sept. 20 – 23 in Grapevine, Encuentro participants stepped up to help the global church.
Catholic Relief Services held a volunteer opportunity for 100 people a day to bag rice, soy, vitamins, and dehydrated vegetables in bags and boxes to be shipped to the impoverished country of Burkina Faso, Africa.
After the opening prayer, Most Rev. Adam Parker, the auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Baltimore, scooped rice from a large bucket and poured it into the bag at the center of the table under the large funnel. He conversed with the people around him while he worked.
“I thought in particular that given what we’re here to do, as a Church in a larger community, that the community extends beyond the boundaries here and throughout the world. When I heard that Catholic Relief Services was going to be here to give us this opportunity, I thought ‘what better way to give back to the people who are hungry and need this kind of support?’” said Bishop Parker.
The fundraiser finished 10,000 bags on Friday, and then 10,000 more on Saturday. With every 1,000 bags filled, a large gong was rung and the people working cheered at the progress.
According to Catholic Relief Services worker Norma Valdez, the people of Burkina Faso have attempted to raise coffee but have been unable to due to poor soil quality, making it one of the poorest countries in the world.
Catholic Relief Services are set up in such a way that schools may buy supplies and work with the charity to teach students Catholic social teachings and feed the impoverished in other countries.
Catholic Relief Services serves in 106 countries whose bishops and local governments have invited them to do so.
“We ask them to get their team together to tell us what they want because everyone has an agenda,” Valdez said. “We send in our assessment team and see how we could work together, whether it’s teaching them how to build a well or mosquito nets so they don’t get malaria, or how to grow coffee. Once we get them situated, the hope is to leave them self-sustainable.”
The bags shipped are practical for the families. Although they are small, they each can feed a family of four as each cup of rice turns into 3 cups of cooked rice. The cooking instructions are on the back of the bag.
“The fact that we can come together and do this as a community, here within the context of the Encuentro, is a real symbol of what this is all about,” Bishop Parker said.