Today, Friday, is the first Friday of the Lenten season. Catholics age 14 and older abstain from meat on all Friday of Lent plus Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The diocese is offering several opportunities during this Lenten season. First, parishes and schools are encouraged to participate in Operation Rice Bowl, now called CRS Rice Bowl. The Rice Bowl helps us live in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable around the world. Second, the 17 schools in the Diocese of Des Moines are undertaking a special project during Lent to raise funds in support of Holy Ghost Juniorate, a high school seminary in Nigeria. The school is in great need of educational resources. Our diocese is blessed by the minsiterial services of four Holy Spirit priests from Nigera. Third, Bishop Richard Pates encourages parishioners to take advantage of small faith-sharing groups focusin gon the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. The groups are being organized in conjunction with the Year of Faith being commemorated throughotu the Catholic Church this year. On behalf of the diocese, theologian Dr. Cheryl Fournier has produced a book called "Walking by Faith: Vatican Council II" that provides a look at the opening speech of Blessed John XXIII as well as excerpts of four documents, called constitutions, that came from the council. Contact your parish for more informatino about these three Lenten opportunities.