Retreat: Thursday

This meeting room is so nice now compared to what it used to be. As you can see it is open on both sides and there usually is a breeze blowing across the room so it is fine without air conditioning.
Today Archbishop Julian continued his theme of relationships, talking about our relationships with society.
The food service students from the Don Bosco Vocational School are really busy all day. They will be glad when this week is finished and they can return to a more normal school day back in Phnom Penh.
The Catholic center is up high on a hillside, overlooking the sea. In past years the sea could actually be seen but now the view is obstructed by new construction.
From a far corner of the church property the port of Sihanoukville can still be glimpsed through the trees.

Retreat: Wednesday

At our services in the church, the guys have the option of sitting on the floor–as many of them do in their parish churches where they have no chairs–or sitting in chairs.
We do a bit of walking each day. These men are walking from the meeting hall a good distance away back to the residence buildings.
These young women come from the Don Bosco Vocational Training School where I have mass every Monday morning. The school offers commercial courses in food and beverage services. These girls are students cooking for the priests retreat to get real work experience.
There are 62 priests attending this retreat so the students prepare a lot of food.
The center hires some local people to wash dishes for the week. No stainless steel sinks in a sparkling kitchen for washing dishes here!

Retreat: Tuesday

Gathering for breakfast after morning prayer.
Later in the morning we were back in the dining area for a break after the morning talk.
This first mass of the retreat gathered all the Phnom Penh priests with Bishop Olivier as presider.
Bishop Olivier is keen on recording in photos and text all that goes on in the diocese and usually has several staff from the Catholic Social Communications office at events. Here one man takes still photos while another uses video.
In the afternoon session Archbishop Julian Leow continued his theme of relationships, talking today about our relationship with ourselves.
Kampong Som Province is the wettest of all the provinces and we have been having several showers a day, some of them real downpours drowning out the archbishop’s voice even though he is using a PA system.

Retreat: Monday

Four of us drove from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville this morning on the new highway just opened up. It is like the Interstate highways in the U.S. and cut the travel time from 5 or 6 hours to just 3 hours. A great improvement!
The highway is finished but the rest areas are not. This one had a functioning gas station but all the planned commercial sites were empty except for one coffee shop.
While no one could use the Catholic center during Covid, they did a lot of renovations. Because of my advanced age–not because of any significant achievements!- -I got a room in the VIP section where the four bishops stayed. This is a far cry from what it used to be with a small bed and bare concrete walls!
The first official act of the retreat was vespers together at 5:00 PM.
Then Bishop Olivier had a formal welcome for everyone in the outdoor dining area.
Then the electricity at the center went out. A generator powered three or four lights in the courtyard but our dinner was in darkness broken by phone lights.
The retreat sessions were held in a different building apart from the residence buildings. The meeting room, too, has been completely redone and is so much nicer now.


The priests of Cambodia came together today at the Catholic center in Kampong Som on the southern coast for a week long retreat. Internet connections were almost non-existent so I have had trouble getting online. I think I have found a workaround so now I will be able to follow up with daily posts.

Above is Archbishop Julian Leow, the bishop of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, who will be guiding our reflections through this week.

Social Enterprise

PPC Bank–Phnom Penh

Social enterprises are businesses or commercial endeavors that differ from regular businesses in that the goal of the enterprise is not just to make money for the stockholders but to provide social assistance to some group like people with disabilities. In Phnom Penh the PPC Bank five years ago set up a social enterprise called Socials Coffee, a coffee shop right in their bank building, and they recruited, trained, and hired deaf people as employees.

Yesterday Socials Coffee celebrated their 5th anniversary which a fun gathering at the bank. Here one of the bank executives speaks about their vision and how it has worked.
Many of the deaf community came for the celebration.
It was impressive to see how many people came for the anniversary.
A group of the DDP staff got together for a photo.
The all our present and former students joined the photol

Thank you, Socials Coffee and PPC Bank!

Nuncio in Cambodia

This week saw the arrival of Archbishop Peter Wells in Cambodia. He is the newly appointed nuncio (ambassador) from the Vatican to Cambodia. Yesterday he had a liturgy and dinner with lay and religious leaders of church organizations. He is from Tulsa, Oklahoma so he and I had a common bond.

Today the nuncio and his assistant, Bishop Daniel (L), met with all the priests of the diocese of Phnom Penh for discussion of his role and for answering questions we asked. It was off the record and was a useful forum for exploring issues like the Vatican’s role in seeking peace in Ukraine and Pope Francis’ seeking negotiations with Patriarch Kiril in Russia and other topics.

Tape it!

How many rolls of tape do you think it took to secure a van load of vegetables for the trip to Phnom Penh? I would think there would be a cheaper, more efficient way keep the load together but maybe it’s the best, most reliable way they have found and the price of tape is just the cost of doing business.