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Celebrating six decades of compassion


Caritas Australia celebrated 60 years of tackling poverty and injustice around the globe with an anniversary Mass in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral on Sunday February 25.

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The occasion drew an impressive crowd from across South Australia, including Caritas committee members, staff and volunteers from the past and present.

Archbishop Patrick O’Regan led proceedings, and was joined by Bishop of Port Pirie Diocese Karol Kulczycki and Emeritus Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ as well as priests from both dioceses.

National chair of Caritas Australia, Robert Fitzgerald AM, who travelled from NSW for the celebration, said the organisation was stronger today than it has ever been.

Addressing the gathering at the end of the Mass, he described the event as “the best of the Church”.

“Sometimes as Catholics, we wonder why we stay. Sometimes we doubt that faith but today there is no doubt,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

Robert Fitzgerald and Anne Marie Shinnick at the Mass.

Robert Fitzgerald and Anne Marie Shinnick.

“We saw the liturgy which calls us to action and we see Caritas Australia which responds to that call in the most extraordinary way.”

With development projects on the ground in 18 countries, Fitzgerald said “in a sense, those numbers are meaningless”.

“Because Caritas is about one person at a time; one community, one village, one farmer’s life. You have been on that journey with us for 60 years,” he said.

“You are there today for the destruction of Gaza, and Africa where famine rages.

“You are there today in Ukraine. You are there today in places closer to home where tyranny and authoritarian regimes are there.

“You have been with us on this journey, and you are with us today. That’s what makes Caritas extraordinary.

“It’s not a movement of others, it’s a movement of us.

“Us, the people of God. Catholics in Australia and elsewhere around the world, sharing what we have, being together and spreading that message of the gospel.”

The anniversary Mass featured an impressive liturgical display created by Caritas ambassador Michael O’Donohue from Plympton parish.

The Caritas journey began in Adelaide in 1962, when it started as the Catholic Church Relief Fund (CCRF). This became the Catholic Overseas Relief Committee in 1964.

As part of the anniversary Mass procession of symbols, past and present members of the Archdiocesan Caritas Committee and local school children from Christian Brothers College, St Aloysius College and St Francis de Sales College carried symbols depicting Caritas Australia’s work.

Among them was Anne Marie Shinnick who carried rice and said a few words on behalf of her 94-year-old father David Shinnick, one of the driving forces behind the Church’s overseas aid and development agency.

“Australian Catholic Relief became the most important project in his entire life,” Anne Marie said. “He thanks you all for everything you’ve done for Project Compassion over the years.”

Former Caritas Committee chairperson David Huppatz carried a Project Compassion box, which became the face of Caritas Australia between 1970 and 1980. It was, and continues to be, a small box with an important message and big impact.

A bottle of water carried by Pauline McPherson symbolised the work Caritas did in complementing humanitarian aid with long-term sustainable outcomes, particularly from 1980 to 1990. Water is often a focus in Caritas’ provision of relief when disaster strikes.

David Lloyd from Knights of the Southern Cross (Dernancourt branch) serves Caritas ambassador Leonardo Dos Santos a sausage during the post-service barbecue.

David Lloyd from Knights of the Southern Cross (Dernancourt branch) serves Caritas ambassador Leonardo Dos Santos a sausage during the post-service barbecue. Photo: Ben Macmahon

Pauline began contributing to Caritas through the Brighton parish Caritas project set up in 1971.

“I’ve been involved for more than 50 years,” she said, adding her “wonderful” late husband Keith wasn’t Catholic but supported her all the way.

“It’s nice to know you’re contributing to something good in the world. It’s an honour to be here today.”

A picture of the organisation’s logo was carried by Angela Hart, Diocesan director of Caritas for more than 10 years, while the educational resource ‘It’s not fair Monopoly’ was carried by Clement Kuek (former project officer for Caritas Australia) to symbolise the principles of Catholic social teaching. Finally, a native plant carried by Sarah Moffatt, executive director of Pastoral Life and Mission and chairperson of the Integral Council for Ecology, represented Catholic Earthcare’s incorporation into Caritas Australia.

The Vietnamese Catholic Community Choir sang at the Mass and Knights of the Southern Cross provided a sausage sizzle for guests.

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