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Students commit to Project Compassion

Students from St Agnes School, Mt Gravatt, were among hundreds who made
a commitment to help others in need at the launch of Project Compassion

HUNDREDS of primary and secondary students from across Brisbane Archdiocese filled St Stephen's Cathedral for the annual Caritas Australia Project Compassion Mass and launch.

Students and staff from more than 50 Catholic schools heard Archbishop Mark Coleridge say at the core of the annual Lenten campaign was the need to work with God to fight poverty and the “hungers of the human heart”.

He said Project Compassion was not just about feeding the hungry but also about feeding the spirit of all the human family.

“Jesus is the one who feeds us,” he told those gathered.

“He doesn’t just drop stuff from the clouds, he wants us to work with him in doing what seems to be impossible, feeding the whole human family and keeping a special eye on those who have little or nothing,” he said.

The archbishop encouraged students in attendance to commit themselves to “help feed the entire human family”.

He later blessed student leaders from each school as they received a scroll of commissioning to be taken back to school.

Following Mass, the students spilled out into the cathedral precinct for the ever-popular “pancake flipping races”, a morning tea provided by Rosies and a musical performance from students at the Aboriginal Centre for Performing Arts.

Secondary students assembled in the Francis Rush Centre for a Just Action session where they heard from guest speaker Psyche Mae, one of Project Compassion’s success stories.

Psyche, who featured in Project Compassion 2008, was now paying it forward.

She spoke about growing up living in a squatter settlement on the edge of a giant rubbish dump outside Manila in the Philippines.

Her family was forced to pick through the rubbish to sell what they could to survive.

However, thanks to Project Compassion she was now a social worker, achieving her dream of helping others struggling to leave poverty behind them – with plans to study a Masters’ degree.

“It was always my dream to have a healthy environment where dwellers have positive relationships, families are strengthened and have access to permanent employment, livelihood and other social services and women and children and vulnerable sectors are protected,” Psyche told the students.

Thanks to the support of individuals and Caritas Australia through Project Compassion, the Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ) program helps people like Psyche Mae to learn job and income-generating skills, encourages education, addresses health and runs programs that enable members to save money and take out small, low-interest loans. 

It’s estimated around 5000 people are assisted directly or indirectly by this program.

Psyche’s mother is now a full-time sewer at home and her father works with the House Repair program, run by FCJ.

Her brother, Franklin has graduated from tertiary education and was working in IT, while her other two brothers and her sister are studying hard.

With their jobs and the help of a community savings plan Psyche’s entire family managed to lift themselves out of poverty and build a just future.

Project Compassion runs through the six weeks of Lent and brings hundreds of thousands of Australians together in solidarity with the world’s most vulnerable communities, to help end poverty, promote justice and uphold dignity.

Each week a story about a young person who would not have had much hope for the future will be highlighted.

This year focused on the theme “For A Just Future,” which featured a story from a different country each week, explaining the issues faced in each country.

The stories highlight how Caritas Australia was working together with vulnerable people, helping them to develop their strengths and create change in their own communities.

Brisbane Catholic Education Office

243 Gladstone Road, Dutton Park Q 4102

GPO Box 1201 Brisbane 4001 Australia

Phone: (07) 3033 7000

Fax: (07) 3844 5101