CACD Retreat #3

The CACD retreat gave many of the church and NGO workers the opportunity to see some of the projects started by Bishop Olivier. One of them is CoCo de Takeo, a social enterprise which makes candy and useful and decorative objects from coconuts–of which Cambodia has an abundance!

Coco de Takeo mostly employs people with disabilities and single, poor mothers with no other source of income. Here a Little Person works with large coconut hulls. Notice the teapot and the coconut hull to its left which is being carved to be a decorative holder for the teapot.

Women then extract and trim the coarse, hairy inner shell of the coconut for use in various projects.

Some of the coconut shells are preserved, lacquered, and arranged into decorative hangings that one might find in a restaurant or a tourist business establishment.

Of course, an enterprise centered on coconuts generates a huge pile of husks that cannot be used.

Vietnamese New Year

Bishop Olivier

There is not much of visible Chinese Catholic community in Cambodia but there is a huge Vietnamese Catholic community. Yesterday Bishop Olivier celebrated the Sunday mass on New Year’s Day with one Vietnamese parish. Here he is on his way to mass with them.

After mass with the Vietnamese community.

CACD Retreat #2

As part of the CACD retreat (Catholic Alliance for Charity and Development), we visited a social enterprise center where Bishop Olivier has created basically cottage industries to give employment mainly to people with disabilities and poor women who have no source of income and no possibility of jobs like in the city.

One source of employment is weaving khramas (scarfs) and other cloth on these massive wooden looms.
Weaving is a simple process basically but it looks rather complicated to the untrained observer. Here a woman guides a shuttle with white thread across the loom while the shuttle with green thread rests on the finished product.
Here a woman weaves a solid-color piece of material. It is a slow process, basically weaving one thread at a time.
Another view of the process.
This woman is able to bring her toddler child to work with her.

CACD Retreat

Today was spent–all day–at Takeo, south of Phnom Penh. I got up at 4:40 AM to catch a bus taking members of the Catholic Alliance for Charity and Development (CACD) to the St. Paul Institute in Takeo where we had an annual retreat that Bishop Olivier combined with a tour of the institute and two high schools and a social enterprise center there. It was quite a day. [More on the retreat to come.]

Epiphany 2023

There is a tradition in Phnom Penh of the bishop inviting pastoral workers and parish representatives to a gathering at the pastoral center on Epiphany Sunday. In the past it was a time for the pastoral workers to catch up with each other and for the bishop to disseminate news but now it has become an occasion more for socializing and recognizing different offices in the diocese.

All the Maryknollers arrived in the Maryknoll Mental Health van.
Every Cambodia event features at least one traditional dance.
One of the diocesan agency groups receiving the bishop’s thanks and appreciation.
A choir of teenage youth sang twice during the evening.
The younger set participated, too. Here children dance and sing to Jingle Bells.
At the end of the program, Santa Claus arrived and distributed gifts of rice and cookies and booklets to all who had come.

Back on the block…

Fr. Hung Nguyen was an associate priest with me starting in 2001 and then he returned to his diocese of Seattle. Now he is looking at possible Asian mission again and today he and I met with Bishop Olivier to discuss the possibility of Hung’s working with the English community here. I hope so!

Mass on Christmas Day

For mass on Christmas morning, we moved from the small chapel (where we can seat only 100 persons) to the large upstairs church used by the Khmer community. We had to bring in chairs because they sit on mats on the floor and we had to take off our shoes as they do, but it was a very comfortable worship space that enabled us to welcome more people.

The Khmer community had copiously decorated the sanctuary for their own liturgy before ours.
In Khmer masses where the people sit on the floor, the priest presides from a sitting position instead of the usual standing position.
The sanctuary area of this church is very “busy” visually.
The Christmas crib or creche was a bit different. Made from 25-lb bags of rice, it looked something like a military bunker.