On a sleepy Saturday afternoon in 1998, the then head of Caritas was travelling through central NSW. His phone rang and it was confrere in Port Moresby, PNG, ringing to say that something awful had happened at Aitape in the north of his country. There had been a earthquake and the first news of a tsunami was coming through. They did not know how many had been hurt or the extent of the damage. So there on the side of the road, the Australian rang his contact at Caritas in Rome and transferred $10,000 immediately to Caritas PNG so that relief could begin as soon as possible. It is quite something to transfer money out of Italy in the middle of a weekend. Caritas can do that.
Caritas is an amalgamation of Catholic aid and development agencies from the nations of the world. It has the strengths of being national and international. Its workforce is usually local people that know their own country and how it works, but being united internationally through the Church, it can draw on the expertise and resources of other nations. While it can act quickly, it is also in for the long haul. Its work in Aitape continued for years, given the nature of the injuries sustained, particularly by the children.
During this Lent, you may hear your children talking about Project Compassion. This is a primary fundraising drive of Caritas that links the personal prayer and discipline that we are called to in Lent with a vision of service to our brothers and sisters across the world. If you want to know more about Caritas their website is www.caritas.org.au
Loving Father, you call us each by name and know us individually but you also call us to live together in communion with each other. Send us your Spirit that we may care for those beyond the circle of our family and friends, loving them as Jesus loves them. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb