A BENDIGO Shrove Tuesday tradition has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
Since 1999, Caritas Australia has launched its Project Compassion drive with pancakes at the Hargreaves Mall.
But regional coordinator Kerry Stone said the event had to be called off for the first time in 22 years.
"It's devastating for us because it's the public launch of Caritas' Project Compassion," she said. "It's the main awareness raising and fundraising event for the year.
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"I now have 54 bottles of pancake mix left at my house. My family will be eating pancakes until November 11, when the pancake mix expires."
Project Compassion is held during the six weeks leading up to Easter, known to the Christian community as Lent.
Ms Stone said the donations to the Catholic organisation would support people experiencing poverty around the world.
"Lives have been transformed through the generosity of Australians," she said. "Caritas is just the agency that enables that change.
"While donations dropped last year because of lockdown, the need increased for the poorest of countries.
"We know that the way to fight COVID-19 is to wash hands and social distance, but what do you do in villages where you don't have access to a tap or running water?
"Let your imagination go to the crowding in houses in these places.
"We think it's pretty tough here - there's no denying that. But it's brought absolute devastation to some countries."
Catholic Bishop of Sandhurst Shane Mackinlay encouraged people to give back through Project Compassion.
Bishop Mackinlay said the COVID-19 lockdown had posed challenges for Shrove Tuesday but also the first day of Lent, known as Ash Wednesday.
Parishioners usually receive ashes in the shape of a cross on their foreheads during the church service.
Bishop Mackinlay said the region's parishes were again adapting to the restrictions.
"Everybody was disappointed, but probably not surprised, by the announcement of the five day lockdown," he said. "I have been really encouraged by how widely and readily people have adapted to it.
"Everyone had their routines for lockdown and online services well established, and we went back to that very smoothly.
"Tomorrow will obviously be a bit different with Ash Wednesday. We will have a mass livestream at 12pm, but that will be very limited in terms of people who can physically be there and receive the ashes.
"I know some parishes are thinking of alternative arrangements later in the week if it's possible. Certainly keep in touch with your local parish."
Anglican Bishop of Bendigo Matt Brain said parishes in his diocese were also holding different virtual events for Ash Wednesday.
"The best bet would be to check the website of the different parishes to find out what they are offering," he said.
Bishop Brain encouraged people not to "lose heart" at another COVID-19 lockdown.
"The challenge is not to stew on the many things we would miss or become disheartened," he said. "But instead look for the enduring love."
Ms Stone said people could find out more about Project Compassion at lent.caritas.org.au
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