Catholic students from 21 schools across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains have started their Lenten journeys by being reminded of their marginalised brothers and sisters around the world.
The primary and secondary students gathered in-person at Holy Family Primary, Emerton, on Wednesday 15 February, to find out about Caritas Australia’s Project Compassion initiative, including how their school communities’ fundraising efforts will impact the lives of generations to come.
Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese (CSPD) Executive Director Jack de Groot, explained the importance of the work that Caritas does to transform lives and how our school communities help with that work.
“It’s about how all of us put things right in our world for those who suffer, those who live in injustice and those who suffer poverty,” Jack said.
“This is part of how we live: what it means to be in Catholic schools in the Diocese of Parramatta; to reach out to the world and to be practically loving, practically generous and always having those who suffer front of mind.”
During the event, students were fortunate to hear first-hand from local mother Tereesa, one of Project Compassion’s featured stories in 2023.
Tereesa, a Gamilaroi woman living in Western Sydney, felt disconnected from her culture as she was growing up. At 16 years old, she left school as she fell pregnant with her first child. Tereesa joined Baabayn Aboriginal Corporation’s Young Mums and Bubs Group in Emerton, who helped her access psychological support and housing for her family. Now, she provides support to young mothers who are in similar situations to herself.
Georgia from Gilroy Catholic College, Castle Hill, appreciated the opportunity to explore Tereesa’s story in depth. “Having her here today and being able to ask her questions, allowed us to further connect with her and her story, and better understand the importance of supporting people in the community, especially indigenous people.”
Kai from Holy Family Primary, Emerton, was inspired by Tereesa’s resilience when she was presented with challenges. “I hope I can teach that to other people in my school, that even when something difficult happens to you, don’t give up.”
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, reminded the students and teachers of our call as Catholics to care for one another. He said lessons we learn throughout Project Compassion should continue beyond Lent.
“Project Compassion is so much part and parcel of our Catholic tradition here in Australia. It is a way of saying we want to be part of the global, caring, sustainable, justice-based community going forward,” Bishop Vincent said.
“Caritas Australia isn’t just a charitable organisation, it is our vehicle for the gospel, it is our vehicle for reaching out to the poor and the oppressed. It is our vehicle to spreading the love, the compassion of God and the face of Jesus Christ.
“This year’s Project Compassion theme, ‘For all future generations’, means we don’t just live for today, we don’t just live for ourselves. We don’t exist as separate individuals, we are all interconnected.
“This message will reverberate right throughout the course of our lives, not just in the Lenten season, because we are the people who live in a community that is aligned with God’s purposes. Aligning with God’s purposes means there is dignity, inclusion and equality, there is a place at the table to the least and the last.
“Let this Project Compassion campaign be a reminder to us to embody the values of that caring community of God that we are meant to be.”
Project Compassion is Caritas Australia’s annual Lenten fundraising and awareness-raising appeal. For each of the six weeks of Lent, thousands of Australians come together in solidarity to help end poverty, promote justice and uphold dignity.
To learn more about Project Compassion, visit Caritas Australia’s website caritas.org.au/project-compassion. To donate, pick up a donation box or envelopes at your local parish, visit the website or phone 1800 024 413.