The foundational call of Christians toward charity is a frequent theme of the Gospels. During Lent, we focus more intently on "almsgiving," which means donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity. As one of the three pillars of Lenten practice, almsgiving is "a witness to fraternal charity" and "a work of justice pleasing to God." (CCC 2462). Learn more at the USCCB Almsgiving Page!
As ministers of the Church, we can encourage and empower our communities to take up ever-greater acts of almsgiving during Lent. Here are a couple of ideas you might want to consider that may help super-charge your community's charitable efforts this Lent:
Promote the CRS Rice Bowl Initiative: When done correctly, the Rice Bowl isn't just a cardboard piggy bank that sits on the counter. Through the CRS Rice Bowl Initiative Site, there are resources to help the whole family reflect upon Lent and dive deeper into the practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The money collected via the Rice Bowls sent to Catholic Relief Services is sent overseas to support the mission of CRS and also given via grants to support local organizations here in the Archdiocese.
Encourage online giving, commit a percentage of the increase to charitable works: Lent is an excellent time to have an online giving drive to encourage more parishioners to sign up for online giving. Why not commit to tithing a certain percentage of new online gifts made during Lent to an organization that is special to your parishioners?
Pick a cause and solicit donations for it on your parish social media during Lent: Did you know that Facebook allows you to host fundraisers for nonprofits directly from your organization's page? Host an online fundraiser and encourage your parishioners to share the fundraiser on their pages as well. This can work—already this year, two personal fundraisers raised over $7,000 for a community center at one of our parishes, and another raised over $2,000 for the Sacred Cultural Artwork Fund. Imagine what your whole community could accomplish when promoting a fundraiser together?
Create a 10% challenge: Challenge your parishioners to make their Lenten sacrifice 10% of everything they spend during the season of Lent. This is easy now that most people receive online bank and credit card statements. Challenge parishioners to add up everything they have spent throughout Lent and donate 10% of that amount to a charitable organization!
Connect your parishioners to the Catholic Foundation of Michigan: The Catholic Foundation of Michigan inspires charitable giving and assists donors in providing for the long-term needs of Catholic parishes, schools, ministries, and nonprofit organizations in southeast Michigan. Does your parish have a fund to which parishioners can donate? The foundation also has a variety of funds supporting various nonprofit organizations that your parishioners could help with their Lenten alms!
Invite one of our mission partner organizations to speak at your parish: There are hundreds of mission partner organizations—groups that join us in working to Unleash the Gospel—who operate alongside our parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit. You can see the ones closest to your community using Evangelical Charity Finder.
What creative things does your parish do to increase almsgiving during Lent? Jump over to the Evangelical Charity page on the EGW Detroit Mighty Network and tell us about it!