The Archdiocese of Washington Kicks off Lenten Initiatives

“Operation Rice Bowl” and “The Light Is On For You”

February 23, 2012

Lent will begin on February 22, 2012, with Catholics around the world fasting and receiving ashes on their foreheads in the sign of the cross as a symbol of penance and conversion. In the Archdiocese of Washington, Lent also marks the beginning of “The Light is On for You” initiative and also “Operation Rice Bowl.”

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and is the 40-day penitential period before Easter and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. The imposition of ashes is an ancient practice found in the Old Testament. Once a public sign of an individual’s repentance, it became part of the Church’s Lenten preparations by the seventh century. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (the Friday before Easter), Catholics between 18 and 59 years old observe a modified fast. Guidelines allow for one full meal per day. Catholics age 14 and over abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday during Lent. Easter will be observed on April 8, 2012.

In 2007, the Archdiocese of Washington created the Lenten initiative, “The Light is On for You,” to renew interest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The campaign has since has been replicated in more than 20 dioceses throughout the United States and in Canada. The Archdiocese of Washington and Diocese of Arlington are again joining forces. Transit, television and radio advertisements will provide an invitation to all to come to more than 200 churches in Maryland, the District and Northern Virginia on Wednesday evenings (beginning Wednesday, February 29, 2012) during Lent for confession and prayer from 6:30-8:00 p.m. Details and resources, including the television advertisements, testimonials, and a message from Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, are available online at or by clicking here.

Operation Rice Bowl is the Lenten program for Catholic Relief Services which, began in 1975 in the Diocese of Allentown, PA as a response to the drought in the African Sahel. For more than 35 years, Operation Rice Bowl has offered Catholics in the United States a way to connect with our brothers and sisters in need around the world. More than simply a collection, Operation Rice Bowl helps families to pray, learn and make a positive difference during Lent. In addition to supporting the global work of Catholic Relief Services, the program also returns a portion of the annual collection to support the charitable work of the local Church. Of the $38,312 collected through the Archdiocese of Washington in 2011, $6,200 went to local parish programs to alleviate hunger and poverty. Of the $6,200, 36% went to District of Columbia parishes, 34% went to Prince George’s County parishes, 15% went to Montgomery County parishes, 7% went to Charles County parishes and 6% went to St. Mary’s County parishes. The funds are distributed by jurisdiction, proportional to the Operation Rice Bowl contribution amounts submitted from each jurisdiction.

The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 600,000 Catholics, 140 parishes and 98 Catholic schools, located in Washington, DC and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

Brie Hall
Office of Communications
[email protected]