I love football. So the month of January
is especially exciting for me as the playoff race unfolds,
leading to the Super Bowl. Each year my family and friends
gather at someone’s house for the big game where we enjoy
each other’s company, hopefully a good game and, of course,
lots of good food. In fact, some years it has rivaled a Thanksgiving
The reality of our world today is that there are a lot of people
who barely have enough to eat every day, let alone indulge in elegant spreads
on occasions such as a football game. In fact, the Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations reports that some 840 million people in our world are
hungry and malnourished.
It was that reality that inspired Brad Smith’s
prayer given on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday in 1988.
A seminary intern serving at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church
in Columbia, South Carolina, he prayed, “Lord, even as we
enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of
those who are without a bowl of soup to eat.”
The prayer sparked an idea in Smith. What if he
asked members of the congregation to donate just one dollar
to help the hungry? He would have the youth of the church
collect the money in large soup pots, and would then send
the donations to a local charity of the church’s choice.
Two years later, when he became associate pastor
at Spring Valley, he presented the idea to the youth of the
parish. The Senior Youth Group took the idea and ran with
it. They invited other area churches—seven different denominations—to
join in the effort called the Souper
Bowl of Caring. That first year, 22 Columbia churches
collected $5,700. The next year the program went statewide.
In 1993 it went national.
Fast-forward to 2003. For last year’s Souper Bowl,
11,083 organizations collected $3,523,966 in donations. Since
the program began, $20 million has been collected for soup
kitchens and food banks throughout the United States.
Also, in addition to the collection on Super Bowl
Sunday, there is now the Souper Bowl Service Blitz. It is
held the day before the Super Bowl and is an opportunity for
participants to spend time volunteering at the charity that
their donations will benefit.
Even if you’re not a football fan, the Super
Bowl serves as a good yearly reminder that we are called to
help those less fortunate. Here are several ways your family
can answer that call:
Take part in the Souper Bowl Service
Blitz on January 31 this year. If your parish isn’t organizing
an event, organize one yourself. Call your local soup kitchen
and ask if you and your family could volunteer to help serve
Host a Super Bowl party at your parish—if you
have the facilities—and have admission be one dollar or a
canned good. You can also do the same thing if you’re hosting
a party at your home. Whatever you raise can then be added
to your parish’s collection total.
Visit the Web sites of Catholic
Relief Services or the Catholic Campaign for Human Development’s
Poverty USA to discover
other ways that your family can help fight hunger both locally
and throughout the world.
for information on ways to promote the Souper Bowl of
Caring in your parish, suggestions for various activities,
a step-by-step game plan for a successful Souper Bowl and
Next Month: Candlemas Day