By Joe Higgins
The Catholic Leader
HUNDREDS of Brisbane Catholic school students crammed St Stephen’s Cathedral on Shrove Tuesday for a Mass to launch Caritas’ Project Compassion 2020 – and more than a few had a go at pancake racing on the cathedral lawn afterwards.
Even with the fun of the Shrove Tuesday games, the message held true.
“Lives do change”, Caritas’ Ranmal Samarawickrama said reflecting on the power of every donation offered to Project Compassion.
Manager of Caritas Australia’s Asia team, Mr Samarawickrama has built a career working for international aid organisations, but has enjoyed the most professional satisfaction working on Church projects across the region during the last 15 years.
Mr Samarawickrama said Project Compassion is a concrete way of providing opportunities and returning dignity to the poor.
“For me Caritas’ way of working – through the lens of Catholic social teachings – with human dignity as its focus – for me I have seen enough evidence of change that I can say it is working,” he said.
“It takes longer, it takes accompaniment with the local agencies we are working with, but we are working with the local community and I think that is really powerful.”
Mr Samarawickrama was at St Stephen’s Cathedral for the Brisbane launch of this year’s Project Compassion – Caritas Australia’s annual Lenten fundraising and awareness-raising appeal.
Millions of Australians come together in solidarity with the world’s poor to help end poverty, promote justice and uphold dignity.
“When someone out of generosity puts a donation in the Project Compassion box, lives do change,” Mr Samarawickrama said.
“You can’t fight poverty on your own, but together we can with Project Compassion.”
The theme for Project Compassion this year is ‘Let’s Go Further together. During the next few weeks, The Catholic Leader will feature stories telling how Project Compassion has touched lives in poor communities.
“And each of the stories is connected because each one of those individuals is celebrating dignity again, each one in their own way has transcended the boundaries of what held them back before,” Mr Samarawickrama said.
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 1300 schools helped to raise $10.7 million through Project Compassion.
Caritas chief executive officer Kirsty Robertson said they encouraged everyone to support Project Compassion into its 55th year.
“I’m humbled by the generosity of our supporters right across the Australian communities and the difference that makes in changing lives globally,” she said.
“As the new CEO of Caritas, I remember personally giving as a child to a Project Compassion box.
“Even back then I knew it had the power to change peoples’ lives.
“We are all part of one global human family, supporting each other and particularly those most marginalised during difficult times.
“This year, despite the challenges in our own country, we invite you to be part of the Project Compassion journey towards creating a more just world, at peace and free of poverty.”