Love People, Use Things

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The Culture Project Team. Back row, left to right: Chris Da Silva, James Price, Patrick Drake, Jacob Boulus, Simeon Casey, Aodhan Kirk, Oliver van Rensburg, Christopher Pinto and Jacob Laous. Front row, left to right: Lorraine Ladia, Francesca McGinnity, Grace Hempel, Helena Laous, Rebecca Lennon, Filomena Peoples, Marie van Rensburg, Sophia Shogren, Hannah Portelli, Anna Burton, Frances Cantrall PHOTO: Benjamin Conolly

The Culture Project dreams of a culture where “the dignity of the human person is at the forefront of every relationship, law and societal structure,” and they’re building it one school at a time.

If you could go back to high school and speak to your 15-year-old self, what would you tell them? Unfortunately, we can’t, but we do have a next best thing; The Culture Project.

Founded in 2013 by a small group of Campion College University graduates, the Culture Project is a much needed dose of love and support for students as they navigate the pressures of being a teenager.

The Culture Project was launched in Australia by current Director Frances Cantrall (affectionately known as Dory) and Chris Da Silva, now of the Sydney Archdiocesan Life, Marriage and Family Office.

The Culture Project’s current Director Frances “Dory” Cantrall. PHOTO: Benjamin Conolly

“The reason we started the Culture Project is because we really believe in inspiring a generation to ‘love people and use things, not use people and love things’,” said Frances, quoting Saint John Paul II.

“We started it because we believe that every human being is created for love and the only way we should be treating anyone else is with love.”

‘love people and use things, not use people and love things’

The Project’s day to day operations are undertaken by volunteer missionaries who commit themselves to a year of living in mission and working to affect the culture of our society in a positive way.

This year’s full time missionaries are Marie van Rensberg, currently on her second year with the Culture Project, and Bec Lennon, who put her university studies on pause to work with the Culture Project.

Sydney Archdiocesan Life, Marriage and Family Officer and Culture Project Australia founder Chris Da Silva. PHOTO: Benjamin Conolly

On Wednesday 25 November, Marie and Bec, joined by Chris, Frances and 15 other Culture Project Facilitators, visited the year 10 students of Good Samaritan College in Hinchinbrook.

Days like this one are called ‘Reflection Days,’ where the team spends a full day with students and speaks with them on a range of topics covering what they’re experiencing now right through to the challenges they will face as they enter adulthood and beyond.

The students were split into male and female groups, giving them the opportunity to hear and learn from mentors of their own gender who could relate to what they were going through with their own understanding of what it is to be a teen boy or girl in high school.

“We started it because we believe that every human being is created for love and the only way we should be treating anyone else is with love.”

For both groups the day involved talks, presentations, games and small group sessions. The girls were guided through their day by Marie and Bec while Frances and Chris led the boy’s session.

The Culture Project’s Bec Lennon. PHOTO: Benjamin Conolly

“It was so good to be around the girls and getting to encounter them,” said Bec. “These messages and topics are so important and everyone is going to take them differently, but these are universal truths that we speak about and everyone needs to hear them.

“We’re blessed to be able to come to schools like this and talk to these girls who were just really lovely and receptive.”

The boys were asked about the kind of man they wanted to be and shown how they could become that. They learned about respecting themselves and their future partners, the dangers of pornography, how it leads to the objectification of women and how it is damaging to a life of real, honest love.

“Even if only one student was really deeply affected by this, it would be entirely worth it because that is the worth of a soul.”

“For many of the boys this is the first time they got to hear about the dangers of pornography and the gift of authentic love,” said Frances. “Seeing the boys embrace that message and take that on is such a gift.”

The Culture Project’s mission is a labour of love and one that provides new challenges with every school visited.

“Because every student is so different, and their story so unique, we were eager to speak and connect in a way that built rapport and allowed students to process the content no matter where they were at personally,” said Marie.

“As we became more vulnerable and more direct about the struggles that we have personally gone through, we saw a shift in the room.”

Marie Van Rensburg.

“By the last session we had a strong rapport with the girls which meant our message was far better received.”

Though their mission is far from over and much more work to be done, the Project’s team remain optimistic and filled with desire to continue spreading their very important message.

“People can take what they need from our message,” said Bec. “That’s what we’re here for.”

“Even if only one student was really deeply affected by this, it would be entirely worth it because that is the worth of a soul.”

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