Project Compassion 2016 was launched this morning by Bishop Bill, assisted by the diocesan Caritas Team, Patricia Banister and Teresa Brierley. Given that the 2016 theme is “Learning more, creating change”, it was appropriate that many of our diocesan schools were represented.
Tammy Wright of St Mary’s High School, Gateshead, led an Aboriginal smoking ceremony outside the cathedral, then Bishop Bill led the assembly inside. The Year of Mercy hymn, Misericordes sicut Pater (Be merciful as your Father is), was led by the choir − and who would have thought the students would embrace a Latin refrain?! As Bishop Bill said, “Some of our schools don’t teach Latin anymore. The catchcry fits beautifully with Project Compassion, because compassion is a term closely connected to mercy.”
Patricia Banister shared something of the history of Project Compassion – 50 years old this year – and acknowledged the generosity of parish and school communities in the past. She spoke briefly of the innovative approach taken by San Clemente High School, Mayfield, in 2015 and again in 2016; the countries featured in the Project Compassion are the subject of curriculum studies, culminating in a presentation involving displays, cooking, artwork and music.
Bishop Bill quoted Pope Francis who believes, “Education is an act of hope” and a short film focused on the hope engendered by Caritas Australia initiatives in Malawi, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, India and First Australian communities.
In the year of celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Bishop James Murray arriving in Maitland and claiming St John’s as his cathedral, Bishop Bill told the assembly that “150 years ago, Lent was tied up in rules – one meal a day! Those rules have been reduced over the years and now ‘choose what you will do’ has become our challenge.
“In its simplest form, maybe you don’t have a Mars Bar and you put the money in the Project Compassion box, because when people are in need, our whole human family is diminished. I commend Project Compassion to you as part of our spiritual way of looking at the world.”
All who were participated in the launch we’re invited to morning tea afterwards – one student was heard to say “Pancakes, ice cream, and maple syrup – three of my favourite things” – but not before they prayed, “Help us see God’s face in places we’ve not known.”
At December's Australian Catholic Youth Festival in Adelaide, Bishop Greg O'Kelly SJ AM DD of the Diocese of Port Pirie thanked the Maitland-Newcastle youth on being the "most active group of young people in Australia" to be involved in Caritas Australia.
The diocesan Caritas Team thanks everyone for their participation and commitment. Please visit www.caritas.org.au/projectcompassion for more information.