Spotlight on… Patrice Moriarty
This Winter CCER casts a warm spotlight on Patrice Moriarty, Engagement Services Support Officer for Caritas. Patrice tells us how she was inspired at a young age to do aid work for the church, of the challenges of seeking social justice, and how five loaves of bread help her stay focused.
On Working for Caritas
I’ve always been interested in social justice, in people, in how we as Christians, as Catholics, help each other and put Jesus’ works and loves into modern times, and those sorts of things. I just remember we’d be sitting in church or at the parish and then maybe a Project Compassion speaker would come in – or something would happen at school – and I just always really loved hearing about it and hoped I would be able to do it, and, one day, maybe even work at Caritas. So it’s really wonderful, a dream come true actually, to be working for Caritas.
I was just talking to one of the girls who’s in a youth group in Coffs Harbour and she was really excited hearing of the work of Caritas, and I was thinking, three years ago that would have been me.
On Moments of Inspiration
I was at a Parramatta Youth Camp once and we did the Global Reality Meal. There was the First World, which was like a big party meal, and the Second World where you’d have maybe some rice and some meat, and the Third World in which you just have a very small portion of rice. I just thought that was such as great way to communicate how important it is for us to be doing something about poverty, but also for us to experience what it’s like. I just remember looking at the person that was running this and I thought it’d be just so good to be doing something like that, and making that part of my work. That was probably one moment of inspiration.
On the Average Day
It depends on what time of year it is and what projects we’re working on. Right now I’m working on what Caritas will do for the Australian Catholic Youth festival, which is very exciting. I’m a youth leader myself so it’s awesome to be able to share, and directly be a part of it. To have new and innovative ways of talking to young people and communicating what Caritas does and how important it is.
On a Good Day
One would be if we’d had an international visitor, and even a national visitor, because we work with the First People’s programmes as well. So Richard Campbell, ‘Uncle Richard Campbell’, came and spoke to us about his experience of being one of the Stolen Generations. Although it was hard to hear, being able to hear that story and become closer to the truth, is one of the challenging things but also one of the better things about the work that we do. And then also to be able to think that now my job is to make sure that other people hear that story.
On a Bad Day
A bad day would be working on something and then at the end of the day looking at it and appraising it and thinking, ‘you know, actually this might not be the best approach to take’. Or it might be feeling that, certainly when working on social justice stuff, there can be days when you can be thinking ‘have I made a difference today?’
The international programmes work with aid, such as emergency relief and disaster risk reduction. For example, with Typhoon Haiyan, Caritas Australia would help with the recovery programme. They actually had someone who was seconded from Caritas Australia to go and work on the programme. So that was dealing with all those things that need to happen when there’s such destruction, like coordination and all those things. But (Caritas) also does things like long-term sustainability projects, working with people at grass roots levels in 30 different countries around the world. And we also work with First Australians. Here in Australia we have about 10 different programmes. (Some are) working to build social enterprises like Djilpin Arts, or it might be working with places like Kinchela Boys Home where they’ve actually created a community of boys that lived in a home, (who had been) taken from their parents (as part of the Stolen Generations). They weren’t able to say their name, they just became a number, and so Caritas is one of those organisations that supports those guys getting together, talking about their experiences and then also getting the help they need to get through that trauma.
On the Type of Person Who Works For Caritas
I think somebody that is aware that we, as people that live in a country like Australia, have opportunities that other people don’t, and cares that other people should have those opportunities. Anybody that believes that God created all people and that everybody has a gift that God wants to share, and has potential. If you really believe that, and can see other people are suffering and aren’t able to live up to that potential due to the social structures that are around them, then I think Caritas is somewhere that you’d come to work.
On Faith At Work
It is important to me. I practise my Catholic faith and I think it’s a big part of who I am and I enjoy working for Catholic organisations. I grew up in a Catholic primary school and a Catholic secondary school, and then I volunteered for Augustinian Volunteers. At university I would look into things like sociology, anthropology and psychology, these were the things that interested me. And then, part of the course was that we looked at Catholic social teachings and the cyclicals. And (we learned how) the popes, for 130 years, had been doing sociology and anthropology and all that sort of stuff. And so you have that academic approach (to work) but then you also have the heart of loving the people that are around you and being able to express that love, whether that be in a pastoral sense or whether it be ensuring that everybody has food or is looked after in times of disaster.
On Witnessing the World’s Challenges
(It can be) a bit confronting or the problem might seem too big. (I might think) ‘I’m just one person, how can I sort of (help with) that?’ So that would be the challenging sort of day. That would also be the time when I get my headphones on and music and do a prayer or a reflection. At an HIV and AIDS conference, one of the Fathers there said he did a reflection on the Gospel about the five loaves and two fishes, and sometimes it seems like we’re called to do these amazing things and we say to God, ‘I can’t do it. I only have five loaves and two fishes. I cant do it’. But he said when you just give what you have, God does amazing things with that. So part of working in these sorts of places is that you will have bad days but you always need to be like ‘Alright, I recognise that this has been a bit of a bad day but there’s a purpose in it and what can I do with my five loaves.’
Caritas Australia’s Africa Emergency Appeal
23 million people are currently on the brink of famine in South Sudan and other areas of East Africa and Yemen. Your urgent donation will help Caritas Australia deliver life-saving food and water to countries most in need including South Sudan, Kenya and Malawi. To find out more and to donate, please click here.