It’s that time of year again, when the little boxes and Caritas Australia posters start to make their appearance in schools, homes and parishes. Ash Wednesday marked not just the beginning of Lent, but the beginning of Caritas Australia’s Project Compassion, with this year’s theme set as “go further together.”
A group of school leaders from 18 of Sydney’s Catholic Schools were invited to St. Mary’s Cathedral Hall on Shrove Tuesday to eat pancakes, play games, learn about the works of Caritas Australia, and the importance of giving, especially during lent.
The students were also treated to a performance from singer-songwriter Gary Pinto, in a special preview of his new song “Walk with Me.”
Formerly a member of Aussie R&B pioneers CDB, Gary wrote the song “Mary McKillop”, for Australia’s first Canonised Saint, and has now written “Walk with Me” for Project Compassion, due to be released during Lent.
This year the organisation says it will try to “encourage all Australians to go further together to help communities around the world during the annual awareness and fundraising campaign, Project Compassion.”
Having launched on Sunday 23 February and running for the six weeks of Lent, Project Compassion raises money for Caritas Australia’s long-term development and emergency relief programs, which help millions of people each year.
While the students heard from speakers in Cathedral House, Kirsty Robertson, CEO of Caritas Australia, with officials and other members of the organisation held the cause’s official launch at NSW Parliament House.
“We encourage everyone to support Project Compassion which is now in its 55th year, so that we can continue to transform lives, strengthen the resilience of communities and contribute to peace and stability,” said Kirsty Robertson.
“Project Compassion is a wonderful story of the generosity of Australians. It’s the opportunity for Australians to change the lives of people that they will never get to meet.
“They know that when they put their money in the box, something amazing happens, and a great light and hope gets spread throughout the world.”
Philippines-based international aid and development expert Florida Senis Rafer, who serves on the frontlines of the battle to end poverty, was this year’s special guest and international speaker for Project Compassion.
Florida has seen first hand the need for generosity and the work of Caritas Australia through her work in the Philippines where she works with indigenous people living in poverty.
“With Caritas Australia and through this project we help the indigenous people with training and education,” said Florida Senis Rafer.
Terry Brady, Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney Terry Brady spoke at the launch, remembering the history of Project Compassion and Caritas in Australia and the significance of the project.
“Project Compassion is an extraordinary ongoing demonstration of the faith, love and generosity of caring supporters,” said the Bishop. “All in the name of justice and peace.”
“During Lent, Caritas Australia ask us to walk alongside those whose lives are threatened by poverty, conflict and injustice. It urges us to uphold Jesus’s commitment of a good life for everybody, where everyone gets a fair go.”
When the pancakes had been eaten, the games played, songs sung and speeches spoken, students and officials alike came together to celebrate Mass in St. Mary’s Cathedral, and hear a talk from Florida Senis Rafer.
Thanks to the generosity of the Australian public, last year Caritas Australia reached 1.52 million marginalised people worldwide, including in Australia. In 2019, more than 1,000 parishes and 1,300 schools helped to raise $10.7 million through Project Compassion.