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50 years strong: Project Compassion Appeal launches at Cathedral


Auxillary Bishop Don Sproxton celebrates Mass at the launch of the 2016 Project Compassion Appeal, held at St Mary’s Cathedral on Sunday, 7 January 2016. Photo: Rachel Curry.

By Rachel Curry

Give generously this Lenten season, as if Christ himself were appealing to your charity through the mouths of the poor, said Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton on Sunday as he launched the 2016 Project Compassion Appeal at St Mary’s Cathedral.

More than 1000 people attended the Mass to celebrate the launch, which was made all the more significant by the fact that this year marks 50 years since the inception of Project Compassion.


More than 200 people attended the special Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on Sunday. Photo: Rachel Curry.

The fundraising and awareness campaign runs throughout the six weeks of Lent and brings hundreds of thousands of Australians together in solidarity with the world’s poor, to help end poverty, promote justice and uphold dignity.

Last year supporters, schools and parishes around Australia raised a record-breaking $11.57 million - $1.33 million in Perth - to go towards Caritas Australia’s humanitarian and long-term development programs in more than 40 countries


Choir singers enrich the ceremony during the launch, which marks the 50th year of Project Compassion. Photo: Rachel Curry.

In his homily for the occasion, Bishop Sproxton spoke about the origins of Project Compassion which he explained could be found in Vatican II pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes, commonly known as the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World which outlined how the Church must seek to walk in solidarity with all of humanity.

“The eyes of the world were on the things that were coming out from the Council. One of those things was the call from the Pastoral Constitution for the dioceses all over the world, and particularly in the wealthier parts of the world, to fix their eyes on the poor,” he said.

“A beautiful passage in the document came to everyone's attention. It ran: ‘It is as if Christ himself were appealing to the charity of his followers through the mouths of these poor people.’”

The call was noticed in Australia even before the Pastoral Constitution was published, Bishop Sproxton said.

A Catholic Overseas Relief Committee had been formed, which co-ordinated the first national appeal during Lent in 1965, followed by the launch of the first Project Compassion Appeal in 1966.

“This year we are following this wonderful tradition, 50 years on…The opportunity is given to us in Lent to incorporate Project Compassion once more into our journey to and with Jesus,” he added.

The theme for this year’s Project Compassion Appeal, Learning more, Creating Change, draws on a message from Pope Francis, who has said “Education is an act of hope”.


Sr Janet Palafox from Caritas Australia thanks the Perth Catholic community for their ongoing generosity, during her address at the end of the Mass. Photo: Rachel Curry.

In a speech to the congregation, Sr Janet Palafox from Caritas Australia said the appeal would celebrate the power of learning and the ways we can provide renewed hope to those most marginalized.

Sr Palafox spoke of one Caritas program in Malawi, which had enabled mother-of-five Doney, who previously could not read or write, to train to be a teacher and become a leader in her community.

“Your compassion and generosity has enabled vulnerable people like Doney in her community to learn, reach their full potential, create change in their own lives and to dream in colour,” she said.

During Lent, Australians are invited to support Project Compassion by direct donation, or by holding fundraising events.

These include Caritas Ks, where participants raise money by walking, running, cycling or swimming kilometers for compassion, and Fish Fridays, where people eat small fish meals and make a donation to Caritas Australia.