I was totally surprised–twice!—this weekend as I turned 75 years old. On Friday a group I meet with regularly came to the Maryknoll office where I live and then today, Sunday, the congregation celebrated with me after the morning mass. Click here to see wonderful celebrations with beautiful people.
Well…. Today was my birthday and it didn’t even occur to me until I got an e-mail this morning with birthday greetings from Peg in Louisville. I assumed no one here knew it was my birthday and just went about a normal day. Someone had called yesterday to make an appointment to see me at 6:00 PM and I was waiting for her when suddenly about 35 children and adults appeared on the front porch of the Maryknoll office! They brought food and drinks and a cake and it was a total, wonderful surprise. All of the families were from our weekly prayer group and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. It was a delightful evening and thinking back, I believe it was the first birthday party I have had in 60+ years! Thank you all!
Every month a number of lay missioners from various mission communities in various countries get together in Phnom Penh in a type of support group. For the February meeting, Sr. Len Montiel was invited to speak of her many years of experience in the kingdom. She is preparing to be reassigned with Maryknoll in the United States in March.
Today was the occasion of the annual gathering of church pastoral workers at the pastoral center in Phnom Penh Thmey. Click here to see the activities of the program.
This is a photo from our last coffee and doughnuts Sunday (the third Sunday of each month) and it shows the lively conversations and exchanges that go on each month. For too many Catholics, we “go to mass on Sunday” as an obligation, a requirement, overlooking Jesus’ command to be brothers and sisters to each other. To be family like that means to actually talk to each other and to get to know each other, not just sit beside someone in mutual isolation for an hour during mass. Other Christians are so much better at that than we are and we could learn a lot from them about what Jesus had in mind.
Every the Don Bosco Vocational Training Center for girls has a Christmas Bazaar and I’ve been going for eighteen years. It is a fund-raiser for the school but also just a fun event that involves all the girls in reaching out to the community.
This morning I was riding a motorcycle taxi (a motordupe) across town to our 10:00 AM mass, just like I do every Sunday, and I was thinking it was strange that this microfinance place was open on Sunday.
Then it dawned on me: “This isn’t Sunday! It’s Christmas!” and I considered how it’s just like a Sunday with all of us off from work and going to mass and that I would have the afternoon after mass to catch up on some paperwork.
Then it further dawned on me: “Wait! This isn’t Sunday! And it is Christmas, but it’s a work day in Cambodia” where 94% of the population is Buddhist with zero interest in Christmas and the birth of Christ. As I saw this woman dusting off the wares in her little shop, I realized that this afternoon after mass I would be heading back to work at the Deaf Development Programme. “It’s Tuesday!”, just an ordinary Tuesday and an ordinary workday for all of Cambodia except for the few of us Catholics who had a service on Christmas morning.
We had our second Christmas mass at St. Joseph Church this morning. We had to bring the crib and nativity set from the Korean Diakonos Center where we used them last night. Click here to see some pictures of our congregation today.
Our Christmas Eve service this year was held at the Korean Center. We had a very good turnout and had to add extra chairs. Click here to see some of our arrangements.
Normally we have most of a week to take down the Advent decorations and replace them with Christmas trimmings, but this year the last Sunday of Advent was today and tomorrow, Christmas Eve, is the beginning of the Christmas season so we had to change the church environment today. Click here to see the crew that gathered for the task.