This Lent, students from schools across the Diocese of Parramatta are pursuing a quest to build awareness and raise funds to support the most marginalised communities in society through the Caritas Australia initiative, Project Compassion.
The campaign runs through the entire season of Lent, challenging students to unite together with a common purpose. This year, the theme is “For all Future Generations”, encouraging students to act as stewards of God’s creation in promoting environmental justice and restoring social equity.
Schools participated in a special webinar, hosted by the Diocese of Parramatta Mission Enhancement Team and the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta Mission Team, where they listened to compelling stories from all over the world where poverty and injustice have deeply affected communities. The driving question for schools is “How can we protect our planet for all future generations and continue to support people in need today?”, invigorating students to act as caretakers of the planet by putting themselves in the shoes of those who are most vulnerable.
Through a moving opening liturgy, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, set the scene for Lent, reminding all participants of the need to prepare for our Lenten journey this year. “Bishop Vincent spoke to us and gave us examples of how we can become closer to God and strengthen our relationship with others in good deeds and actions”, Emmaus Catholic College student Georgia Borg said.
Schools were also joined by Caritas Australia’s Program Coordinator for Africa, Sr Ivy Khoury who praised students for their continued support, recognising the small efforts that enable life-changing possibilities for those experiencing inequality.
Students were especially moved by videos detailing the trials and tribulations facing those in need. In particular, stories such as 12-year-old Anatercia from Mozambique who was forced to take care of household responsibilities after her father passed away and her mother suffered from chronic health issues. With the village suffering from food insecurity and famine due to failed harvests and water scarcity, Anatercia had to carry 25 litres of water over a long distance three times a day in order to nourish her family.
“Sister Ivy inspired us and made us aware of the impact our fundraisers contribute to other people’s lives through Caritas Australia,” said Emmaus students Peter Sara and Taylor Cardona. “It was a very powerful moment to put myself in Anatercia’s shoes. I couldn’t imagine walking 10 km at 6 am to get water and then walking another 10 km to school”.
The students added, “I feel my calling is to motivate and inspire others at Emmaus Catholic College, Kemps Creek. We are encouraged to walk with others and meet them where they are on their journey like Jesus does for us. This Launch has inspired us to continue to serve and support project compassion and Caritas make a difference in the lives of others as we model Jesus and walk with others in our community”.
It is through the generous support of schools and Project Compassion, that people like Anatercia can experience a higher quality of life. Through their contribution, Anatercia’s village now has farm irrigation and improved access to water, resulting in a plentiful food supply all year round. Caritas donations have provided her with a school uniform and school supplies to finally seek education and foster her life-long dream of becoming a nurse to help the sick.
Religious Education Coordinator at Trinity Catholic Primary School Kemps Creek, Angela Calderwood said “The Mission Team consisting of Year 6 students, participated in the Project Compassion Launch along with their Teacher’s Aide Mrs Germaine Gil”.
“The students really enjoyed the experience and have been inspired to put their Faith into Action here at Trinity” she said.
Germaine Gil added “Whatever we do this Lent, we should do it with love and hope in our hearts”.
Similarly, students were empowered with empathy to help communities to thrive and build resilience for all future generations in which the compassion of schools helps make this life changing work possible.
Trinity student, Sabrina said “Today opened my eyes to how tough other’s lives are. I am inspired to help others less fortunate.”
“I loved learning about Anatercia’s story and how Caritas helped her community”, fellow Trinity peer Owen added.
“Project Compassion is vital to achieving a better society because they kickstart underprivileged communities by giving them essential resources and teaching them lifelong skills that they will use to flourish and independently look after their own community”, noted St Clare’s Catholic High School Hassall Grove student Euter Mar Valencia.
Schools are now inspired to act as a catalyst for change and equality, being challenged to plan a series of school initiatives to be implemented for the benefit of people like Anatercia. Year 11 Emmaus Senior leaders, Charlese Rose, Isabel and Grace engaged in brainstorming COVID smart fundraisers to influence the entire Catholic community.
Inspired by the Launch, the students produced several beneficial ideas such as the planting of a seasonal vegetable garden for Year 7 Homerooms in order to teach them how to care for our planet “for all future generations”. Additionally, the notions of a potential Easter egg guessing jar, mini pizzas to celebrate Harmony Day, Pancakes for Shrove Tuesday and an Emmaus fundraising page were suggested to collectively rally support and donations for the efforts of Project Compassion.
“These launches are a beautiful way of bringing the community together and reminding students of their purpose and what we are called to be as Catholics”, said Emmaus Assistant Religious Education Coordinator, Gina Governatori.
“To serve others and be role models of Christ during Lent and in our everyday lives, so they can be agents of change, activists of social Justice and model Chrisitan discipleship leadership beyond school life” she added.
With thanks to Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.