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The Caritas Bazaar is a 
celebration of service

In the 1950s, tens of thousands of people swarmed into Hong Kong from mainland China. The diocese appealed for help. The international Church responded generously and this contributed to the establishment of Caritas-Hong Kong in 1953, which hoped to coordinate relief efforts and organise rehabilitation activities.

Today in our rapidly changing world, assistance provided for the last, the least, and the lost must come through education, medical care, community development and care of the aged in order to narrow the gap between the haves and have nots.

Locally, many only associate Caritas with bazaars and raffle tickets. But since Bishop Lorenzo Bianchi launched the first Lenten Campaign and Caritas Week in 1961, its campaigns have gone beyond raising money.

The carnival-style bazaars encourage people in all walks of life, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, from young students to mature aged volunteers to witness to the need for mutual help, as a big worldwide family.

The bazaars have been questioned both outside and inside the Church, by religious congregations, parishes and Catholic schools, down to Caritas staff. They cast doubt on the cost-effectiveness, as huge effort goes into raising a relatively small amount of money.

They call for large-scale concerts, movie premieres or charity balls, where donated valuables can be auctioned. In recent years, many schools and parishes have preferred to give money rather than put in the hard yards. But as sports coaches like to say, no pain no gain.

The bazaars aim to involve all walks of life, so more people can understand that the Church, apart from proclaiming the gospel, also witnesses through social service.

Pope Benedict XVI says, ‘‘As a spiritual being, the human creature is defined through interpersonal relations… It is not by isolation that man establishes his worth, but by placing himself in relation with others and with God’’ (Caritas in Veritate #53).

Jesus set an example of love and compassion as the basis of service. After telling the parable of Good Samaritan he asks, “Which of these three, in your opinion, was a neighbour to the robbers’ victim?” (Luke 10:29-37).

The story explains, “What ever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:31-46). The washing of the feet gives “a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (John 13:1-20).

Pope Benedict XVI tells us, ‘‘Yet, while professional competence is a primary, fundamental requirement, it is not of itself sufficient. We are dealing with human beings, and human beings always need something more than technically proper care. They need humanity. They need heartfelt concern. Those who work for the Church’s charitable organisations must be distinguished by the fact that they do not merely meet the needs of the moment, but they dedicate themselves to others with heartfelt concern, enabling them to experience the richness of their humanity’’ (Deus Caritas Est #31a).

While an organisational culture based on Catholic faith is a necessity, human dignity must be safeguarded. Simple almsgiving is not the end of the story. There must be a spirit of evangelisation and even buying and selling raffle tickets is a celebration everyone can participate in.

The Caritas bazaars do not need passers-by, but partners. A small contribution brings blessings and fosters the development of our spirit and quality of our lives.

Those who went before us in Caritas bequeathed a wise tradition. SE