9 March 2011 - Walk for Hope Guilford Young College

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Walk for Hope
Guilford Young College
Ash Wednesday, 9 March 2011

I am very happy to have the opportunity to join you today on this your Walk for Hope on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent for this year. It has taken longer to reach this day than in the past, because Easter this year is as late as ever it can possibly be, but the day has now arrived.

I am sorry that I have not been able to join with you at some stage along the walk, as I have done in the past. But I need to conserve my energy a little more these days and so restrict my involvements more than in the past.

When I was going to school at St. Virgil’s College, one of the landmark work places in this city was the Zinc Works, located not very far from here in fact. Some 650 workers headed out to Risdon each day, many of them using the train service which operated on the line just nearby. Working at the Zinc Works was a dirty job, but it was considered a good job and many employees worked there for the whole of their lives.

Twice a year, the EZ company would pay a bonus to the work force, some hundreds of dollars over and above their normal salaries, and a reflection of the financial success of the company over the half-year period. This was a huge injection into the economy of Hobart as the families headed into town to spend the additional money on luxury goods and extra items for the home and family.

The problem was that this was all coming at a cost – the cost being that the effluent from the production of zinc, all the tailing and waste products, some of them contaminated, were being piped out into the River Derwent. As a consequence, the river became polluted, the fish began to die, and it was not a good place for swimming.

Thankfully those practices have not continued, and as a consequence, the river is back to a much healthier state, with more fish life, and if you have the courage, better for swimming.

The message is that there is every reason to be hopeful about the future, provided we take the necessary steps to ensure that we care for the environment, and do not see it as something we can rape and exploit.

Nature itself has remarkable healing qualities, and we need to remember that fact and encourage it. At the same time, we need to continue down the path of what Pope John Paul II called “ecological conversion.” It amounts to a change of heart, a change of attitude and a change in the way we do things. What is needed is a strong sense of partnership, partnership with God, partnership with one another, and partnership with the world in which we live.

The principal theme for Project Compassion this year is, in fact, “Partner with us to make a difference.” We can show that we are in sympathy with people who live in other parts of the world, through our prayers, through the efforts we make to support them by using less ourselves, and by providing them with some assistance to help them get a start, through the partnership opportunities we can create.

There is a very moving story in the Project Compassion literature about the farmer in Nepal who attended a Farmer’s Field School, at which he learned better skills to work his land in a more productive way. By means of what he learned, he was able to improve the output of his land by 40%, and that meant he was able better to provide for his family. As a consequence of better education opportunities, his three children now have aspirations, one to be a nurse and the other two to be teachers.

It was Caritas Australia which has provided the seeding money to enable the establishment of the Farmer’s Field School, and that is a way in which the money donated by yourselves and others is put to such good use. I thank you for your contribution to Project Compassion last year, and encourage you to continue with the same generosity this year as well.

The famous Italian Poet, Dante Alighieri, in his long poem the Divine Comedy, spoke of the “flowerbed’ which is the earth, our dwelling place. I congratulate you in showing the concern that you do for this “flowerbed.” We all have a part to play to ensure that the flowers, as the song says, “bloom and grow forever."