Palm Sunday is one of those days that traditionally many Catholics try to attend mass. Although longer than usual, the service is different in a way that attracts people and holds their attention. Click here for photos from Palm Sunday in Phnom Penh.
[The link is not functioning completely so click on it and then scroll down to Preparing the Lenten Environment to read today’s post.]
Lent is a very meaningful season for most Catholic Christians and it is taken seriously. Our English Catholic community tries to celebrate the different events of Lent in a way that invites people to participate and that supports them in their struggle to live as followers of Christ. Click here for pictures from Lent in 2017.
One of the Catholic services connected with Holy Week and Easter is the Chrism Mass, a special mass in which the bishop blesses the oils used throughout the coming year for the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, anointing of the sick, and ordination. It is also an occasion for the priests to renew their promise of obedience to their bishop.
The chrism mass today was preceded by a meeting for all of the 55 or so priests of the country. Here Fr. Chatsirey, the chancellor of the vicariate, explains some of the forms and procedures for people who want to marry in the church.
Shortly before the mass was to start at 5:00 PM the rains really started pouring and the wind blew it right against the glass doors–and under them. There was a half inch of water in the main entrance and the tiles were unbelievably slippery. Apparently that has happened before because the mops were readily available and a PVC pipe cut in half length-wise was use to push and scoop the water toward and out the door.
In 1617 St. Vincent de Paul began forming groups, mostly of women, to serve the poor in his region of France. He was joined by St. Louise de Merillac and their ministry spread, not only throughout France but around the world. Now more than 260 groups trace their origin to St. Vincent de Paul and basically every Catholic parish has a St. Vincent de Paul Society group to serve their local area. This is a large number of the St. Vincent de Paul Society members in our English-speaking Catholic community in Phnom Penh—a wonderful group of committed Christians filled with compassion and love for those who need help. This month the Cambodian Catholic Church has been celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian movement.
Every year the fourth graders from the International School of Phnom Penh come to visit the Catholic church in the Boeung Tum Pun area of the city as part of their study of major religions. They hear what Christianity is about and get a chance to see the church and the sacristy (the room where all the vestments and supplies are kept), and then to examine up close the statues, stained glass windows, etc., in the body of the church. And then they ask questions. Fourth graders have a lot of questions!
This weekend I had a wedding in the coastal town of Kep. It’s unusual because the wedding took place on a hotel beach front. Normally church rules allow weddings only in church buildings but because there is no church in Kep (the nearest parish church is 35 km away), the bishop allowed this wedding outside.
The bride was born in Burma and her family now lives in California. The groom is from Canada. Both of them work now in Cambodia and wanted their families and friends to have an opportunity to see some of Cambodia’s beauty as well as attend the wedding. This afternoon we gathered on the hotel lawn for a rehearsal for the ceremony to take place tomorrow.
After the rehearsal some of the wedding party lingered on the beachfront as the sun set.
The wedding was at 2:30 PM so I was free in the morning. One task I had was to pick up the marriage registry, the book where the marriage records are kept. It is kept in the parish church in Kampot and I really didn’t want to ride 35 kilometers there to get if I didn’t have to. Luckily, the pastor there was able to arrange for someone to drop it off at the Don Bosco School in Kep yesterday and I went to the school this morning to get it. This picture is of some of the students there preparing Philippines-style Christmas decorations.
Setting up chairs and an altar for the wedding ceremony.
Preparing for dinner after the ceremony.
The bride and groom going to the pavilion for serving the cake.
The Salesian Vocational Training Center for Girls in Phnom Penh has an annual Christmas Bazaar. It is partly a fund-raising activity and partly an opportunity for the young women to plan and put together a group project.
These young women are offering one of the many food selections available at the stalls set up in the school’s courtyard.
These girls were making all kinds of fruit drinks.
Sugar cane juice is a very popular drink Cambodia but someone has to scrape the bark off the canes.
Here is the dining area where people go after visiting the different food stalls.
This little girl is waiting for the afternoon performance to begin.
On 9 December 2016 the Caritas Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health celebrated their 25th anniversary. Started and directed by Dr. Bhoomikhumar Jegannathan, it is the only mental health facility for children in the country and has done wonderful work.
Every ceremony in Cambodia starts with a blessing dance. What was unusual this day was having dancers in wheelchairs. Just as young girls in the United States dream of being a cheerleader, so young girls in Cambodia want to be an apsara dancer but that is not an option for most young women with disabilities. These women are fortunate to be connected to the Jesuit program for disabilities in Battambang Province.
Bishop Kike, the head of Caritas Cambodia, speaks to a young woman who has participated in the church’s program for people with disabilities.
After the not-too-long presentations, all the guests and the children at the center with their parents were invited to a lunch served in the center’s well-designed center courtyard.
This past weekend Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, MEP, came to both our Saturday night liturgy at World Vision and our Sunday morning mass at St. Joseph Church. It was good to have him with us as a reminder that the English-speaking community is part of the Church of Phnom Penh. Here he gathers with our choir and musicians after mass on Sunday morning.