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From little things big things grow


Sixty years ago The Southern Cross invited South Australian Catholics to ‘share their Lent’ with the Indigenous community of Bathurst Island, Northern Territory.

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The idea was that by giving up something for Lent – cigarettes, soft drink or some luxury item – people could set aside the “few shillings” they saved and put it towards the purchase of a new motorboat for a fishing co-operative on the Island.

The project was initiated by the Newman Institute in Adelaide and is regarded as a forerunner to the national Lenten appeal that is the major fundraiser today for Caritas Australia, the Church’s agency for international aid and development.

Taking on the name Project Compassion in 1965 and expanding to all dioceses, the appeal captured the imagination of young and old, with the iconic coin boxes taking pride of place in Catholic homes, schools and workplaces during Lent.

Today the appeal raises more than $9m for sustainable development programs that assist more than 2.5 million people around the world.

In line with this year’s theme of ‘For All Future Generations’, Project Compassion stories include Ronita, a 22-year-old mother of two in the Philippines who returned to school to complete her education and secure a brighter future for her family.

There is also the story of Memory, who was selected by local leaders in her community in Malawi as a candidate for a vocational skills course. She now works for one of Malawi’s largest power companies and is a role model and trailblazer for other young women.

Adelaide Catholics are rightly proud of their involvement in Project Compassion. But this is just one way our parishes, schools and migrant communities put their faith into action and help people less fortunate than themselves.

Article courtesy of Archdiocesan Archives

Article courtesy of Archdiocesan Archives.

Through donations to Catholic Mission, they support religious men and women working in some of the poorest places in the world.

Locally, the many loyal and generous supporters of Catholic Charities contribute about $350,000 each year to agencies working with the vulnerable.

Thousands of hours of voluntary work are carried out by members of parish-based groups, including Vinnies.

And yet a recent story in The Advertiser played down this massive contribution as it tried to stir up controversy over churches being exempt from paying council rates.

This is despite the fact that the Lord Mayor of Adelaide went on the public record to explain that her council’s gripe was with government-owned premises receiving exemptions.

Religious institutions are an easy target for a secular media hungry for stories that will spark conflict – in this case reaction from both followers and foes of religion.

What the rates story failed to convey is that the Church is made up primarily of people, not buildings.

People like Brighton parishioner Pauline McPherson who has supported Caritas for more than 50 years; like Glenelg parishioners Pat Murphy, who makes children’s clothing for struggling families, and Margaret Morgan, who drove to Wingfield to replenish stocks of food for the needy after food items were destroyed by fire; like Kapunda stalwarts Kylie and John Hayes who are trying to preserve their parish’s heritage; like Plympton’s Kath Melbourne who is spending her retirement helping women facing unplanned pregnancy…the list goes on.

Just as The Southern Cross asked people to ‘share their Lent’ 60 years ago, our message today is that we can all do our bit in our own small sphere of influence to make a difference.

As Paul Kelly wrote in his song about Aboriginal land rights activist Vincent Lingiari, From Little Things Big Things Grow.

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