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Driving Lenten appeal awareness in schools


A group of young social justice leaders hit the road recently to raise awareness about Project Compassion, the enduring Lenten appeal that had its origins in Adelaide 60 years ago.

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The ‘Travelling Candle’ bus tour on December 5 saw students from Mercedes College visiting six schools in the metropolitan area – where they spoke to their peers about Caritas Australia’s important works that are funded by Project Compassion and extended an invitation to launch of the 2023 appeal to be held on Shrove Tuesday.

Accompanied by Caritas Australia representatives and Mercedes College staff, the Year 12 Social Justice leaders attended Mary MacKillop College (Kensington), Blackfriars Priory School (Prospect), Star of the Sea School (Henley Beach), Sacred Heart College (Mitchell Park), St Martin de Porres School (Sheidow Park) and the School of the Nativity (Aberfoyle Park). At each location they lit the Project Compassion candle and prayed the Caritas Prayer.

Mercedes College’s assistant principal Religious Identity and Mission, Therese Wilson, said it was heartening to witness the students’ commitment to social justice issues and their desire to advocate for those in need around the world.

“As an International Baccalaurate school there is always an emphasis for our students to be global citizens and to look at what happens beyond the school gates,” she said.

“Caritas Day at Mercedes is huge and the students really support Project Compassion in an authentic way.”

Caritas Australia Diocesan director Tracey Tessitore said it was “a day of true hospitality and personal invitation”, full of meaning on many levels.

“A priority was to raise awareness – to show that Project Compassion is not just about donating money, that students see the need to prioritise the poorest of the poor in the world,” she said.

“We were able to talk about how Caritas Australia provides long-term support to communities around the world to tackle poverty, food security, education, water, sanitation and disaster risk reduction.

“Our theme this year is ‘For All Future Generations’ and Project Compassion 2023 reminds us that the good we do today will extend and impact the lives of generations to come.”

Ms Tessitore added that 2023 was significant for Project Compassion in Adelaide, as it marked the 60th anniversary since the first appeal was held in the Archdiocese. Officially, the first national appeal for overseas aid was held in 1965, however she said the history books showed that the initiative drew inspiration from Lenten appeals that had been held at the parish and diocesan level in Adelaide over the preceding two years.

Today, Project Compassion is Caritas Australia’s main appeal and a grassroots fundraiser, with contributions from nearly every diocese, parish and Catholic school across the country. In 2022, $8.5 million was donated nationally, with $550,000 collected in the Adelaide Archdiocese.

Archbishop Patrick O’Regan will officially launch the appeal at Mercedes College on Shrove Tuesday, February 21. As in past years, the iconic collection boxes – now sporting a QR code – will be sent home with Catholic school students, encouraging families to give where possible over the following six weeks of Lent.


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