Gannon University’s chapter of Catholic Relief Service ambassadors is one of the nearly 13,000  across the United States that participate in the annual Rice Bowl each Lent.

The Rice Bowl is used to collect donations that will be given to help the hungry and serves as a reminder to assist those who are struggling across the world.

The Catholic Relief Service is a new group on campus, fulfilling its needs to serve unfortunate people and bring awareness about specific issues pertaining to the local community or internationally.

“It’s great to have students here on campus who are coming to understand how charity and social justice are linked together,” said Katherine Frazier, co-adviser for the Catholic Relief Service ambassadors.

Lexie Mastro, a junior physician assistant major and co-leader of Catholic Relief Service ambassadors, said the CRS ties in with her religious beliefs.

“I believe in the mission to serve others with a focus on social justice and instilling the development process,” said Mastro.

The ambassadors will be collecting donations from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday and Friday in the Waldron Campus Center.

Seventy-five percent of what Gannon students, faculty and staff donate will go to overseas missions run by CRS including ones offering food and medical aid, and 25 percent will be given to a charitable group in Erie.

“Since Lent is about prayer, fasting and giving, I think this brings Lent to a higher awareness to myself and hopefully others,” said Jared Schaaf, a sophomore theology major and Catholic Relief Service ambassador.

Two weeks of food for a family costs $10, $25 provides health exams for 13 children, $50 provides clean water for 500 families and $100 provides immunizations for 157 children.

Since Catholic Relief Service is a nationwide humanitarian organization of the Catholic community, Gannon’s ambassadors focus on a lot of international concerns.

Jenna Dunning, a junior psychology major and co-leader for the CRS ambassadors, said she is involved because she believes in working toward a common good and solidarity.

“I believe as a human being it is my responsibility to help others out who need and ask for it because every person’s life is precious,” Dunning said.

Catholic Relief Service raises awareness and sheds light on the issues in the world, according to Vernadette Delos Santos, a sophomore legal studies major and CRS ambassador.

“Everyone deserves to have their dignity,” said Santos. “Social injustices take that away from people with issues like human trafficking, child soldiers and internally displaced person camps.”

This year so far, Catholic Relief Service ambassadors have focused on What About Sudan – a petition to have Sudan become a topic during the presidential debate – trafficking, signatures to pass a trafficking victims reauthorization act and an HIV/AIDS prayer vigil and petition for the budget for international relief to not get cut.

“I’m so proud of the work the CRS ambassadors have done so far this year,” Frazier said. “I want the CRS Ambassadors to continue to own their global identity and continue to learn how to stand in solidarity with the poor of the world.”

Catholic Relief Service helps more than 100 million of the world’s poorest people each year.

“When you hear how poverty-stricken the world is and how little people have,” Frazier said, “it’s hard not to feel compelled to get involved.”

This article by Colleen Langham originally published in The Gannon Knight on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.