By Amanda Murthy
The recent launch of a publication titled “….giving a voice to the cry of the poor….” by Caritas Australia aims to raise awareness and funding while recording the historical account of Caritas in Perth as it is a story worth remembering and a gem worth sharing, says Chair of the National Council of Caritas Australia, Broome Bishop Christopher Saunders.
Author of the resource and Caritas volunteer Dr Judith Woodward, delivered a speech at the launch event, outlining the “history of Caritas Perth” on Tuesday 7 May from 6pm to 7.30pm in the Michael Keating Room at the University of Notre Dame Australia (UNDA) Fremantle Campus.
The gathering included representatives from the Archdiocese of Perth, Catholic Education WA, UNDA, Caritas Australia national office, Caritas Advisory Committee members, past and present staff of Caritas Australia Perth office, regional diocesan directors, and volunteers.
Dr Woodward shared how she began her work with two years of intensive research, mainly in the Perth Archdiocesan Archives, and thanked the Archives team for their support in assisting her research of Caritas Perth from its beginnings in 1966.
“As a historian I am very aware of the importance of not forgetting the rich tapestry of the past, however, it wasn’t until the commencement of 2017 that I was able to really get started, thanks to the endeavours of the current Diocesan Director Dcn [Paul] Reid,” Dr Woodward said.
“I also had the advantage of having worked as a volunteer in the Caritas office for over 15 years and knew many of the people who appear in the history personally.
“Many potential readers will only have access to the history online but I do hope they will read it and be as fascinated as I am with the rich tapestry that makes up the history of Caritas Perth for the past 52 years of operation.
“It is a history not just of events but of people and their endeavours to carry out the Caritas mission,” she added.
Dcn Reid, who was also present at the event, explained that the publication revealing the history of Caritas will serve as a record people and events that have made Caritas who they are and will influence what they will be in the future.
“In the case of Caritas in the Perth Archdiocese, Dr Woodward has provided this for us,” Dcn Reid stated.
In her research and writing of this history, she delves into the shaping and refining our landmark national appeal that we call Project Compassion.
Dcn Reid added that the project continues to be pivotal to the work of Caritas in engaging with the Church in Australia, its parishes, its schools, Catholic organisations and the wider community.
“It is both awareness raising and fundraising in ‘giving a voice to the cry of the poor’.”
When asked about Caritas Australia’s plans for the near future, Dcn Paul confirmed that an appeal is currently being made for The Deaf Development Program cause in Cambodia.
“Can you imagine having no way to communicate, not even with the people closest to you?” he said.
“This is the reality faced by many deaf people in Cambodia, who often face exclusion, isolation and unfulfilled potential.”
Dcn Reid hopes the program will helps young adults get an education, develop new vital skills and overcome the stigma of hearing impairment that will lead to a pathway out of the double disadvantage of poverty and disability.
Caritas Australia is the official aid and development agency of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
The origins of Caritas Perth date back to the mid-1960s as one of a number of regional bodies for Caritas Australia or as it was originally known, the Catholic Overseas Relief Committee and then Australian Catholic Relief.
It was founded in June 1964 during a time when awareness of global human needs was growing rapidly as international channels of communication continued to improve and as nations were struggling for independence.
Success of these appeals encouraged the Australian Catholic Bishops to initiate a national Lenten appeal in 1965 they named Project Compassion.