USA Trip #2

Gethsemani Day 1

The retreat for the Louisville priests is being held at the Gethsemane Abbey of the Trappist monks, near Bardstown, Kentucky. Gethsemane is famous as the home monastery for Fr. Thomas Merton, the author and spiritual writer who is buried there.

Many people come to Gethsemane for a time of prayer, and there are many lay people here making their retreat at the same time as we priests. Here a woman reads in an isolated area of the monastery grounds.

A view along the side of the monastery building with part of the cemetery where monks have been buried for more than 150 years.

USA Trip #1

Travel

This trip was not unusual in that it took 37 hours and four flights to get from Phnom Penh to Louisville, Kentucky, but because of the timing of the flights, it was difficult to get much sleep on the way.

The first stop was Singapore’s Changi Airport, always one of the top two or three airports of the world. It has indoor gardens, all sorts of environmental areas, an indoor waterfall, and even a bicycle trail for people on long layovers.
From Singapore, it was eastward to San Francisco and then on to Dulles in Washington, D.C. Dulles is notable for its shuttles (yellow circle) that go back and forth on the airport apron carrying passengers between terminals and concourses.
Dulles is also a major hub on the East Coast for United Airlines.

Everyone pitching in

On Sunday mornings, our English Catholic Community uses the same worship space as the Khmer community. The Khmer mass is at 8:00 AM and our mass is 10:30 AM, but the Khmer mass always go long so there is less than an hour between the masses. After their mass, a group of Khmer youth take up the mats they use for sitting on the floor and replace them with the red plastic chairs for us. After our mass, though, the youth are long gone so all of our congregation carry the chairs over to the side of the hall and stack them. Then someone comes and puts the mats back out for the 4:00 PM Khmer mass where again everyone sits on the floor. Notice that our English community have to take off their shoes because wearing shoes in a church or pagoda is a no-no for Cambodian religious people. (Have you ever gone barefoot to Sunday mass?)

Maryknoll Sisters Farewell

Last weekend the Maryknoll Sisters officially made their exit from Cambodia, returning to the Sisters Center in Ossining, New York. For more than thirty years, Maryknoll Sisters did wonderful work in a variety of projects but the sisters here were starting to feel the years and their congregation does not have the new members to build up the sisters community here, so it was decided to end their presence here.

Sr. Ann Sherman, one of the last four Maryknoll Sisters in Cambodia, returned to New York in December. For the remaining three sisters, we had a special blessing ceremony at the end of the Saturday mass. Charlie led a blessing in which the whole congregation was asked to participate as we said goodbye to a fine group of women. In the photo (L to R) are Sr. Mary Little, Sr. Regina Pellicore, and Sr. Helene O’Sullivan. Sr. Regina will actually stay on another month or so to deal with the government requirements for terminating an International NGO in Cambodia.

Caritas Retreat 2024 / Day 2

Today was the first full day of content for this year’s retreat.

Probably 2/3 of the Caritas staff is not Catholic but they are extremely committed religious people, and they have a tradition of coming to receive a blessing while the Catholics receive communion. Here Fr. Will and I give blessings to the non-Catholics on either side of Bishop Ly giving out communion.
As is common in Cambodian culture, all 190 people sat on mats on the floor all day long for the mass and talks and presentations. That wouldn’t happen in the U.S.!
Each of the numerous Caritas projects had a half hour to present their goals, their target group, and to describe their operations. It was truly inspiring! Here the Caritas Center for Children and Adolescent Mental Health is presenting.
I took a photo with the staff of the Takeo Eye Hospital which was founded by Maryknoll Fr. John Barth and is where I had my cataract surgery. I was the first foreigner to have that surgery at the hospital with Cambodian doctors doing the surgery.
After lunch there was a team-building activity where objects were constructed using spaghetti and marshmallows.

Wednesday change

For 30-something years, the Maryknoll Cambodia Mission Team met every Wednesday for a business meeting, a liturgy, and then a meal together. Now that the Maryknoll Cambodia NGO has been closed and we no longer have an office to meet in, it was decided that those who are interested could continue to meet and Maria and Kila volunteered their apartment as a venue.

Our liturgy and meal today was special because Tony (standing, L) is leaving on Saturday to return to his teaching in Australia. (L-R: Julie, Cristina, Tony, Regina, Bro. Tony, Brian)

Epiphany 2024

Every year the bishop hosts an Epiphany gathering for lay leaders in the parishes and the sisters and brothers and priests. There are some performances, the bishop’s talk, and then a dinner together. Here are some scenes from this year’s event.

Every Cambodian event starts with a traditional dance. This one was unusual in that the “male” dancers (without skirts) are actually young women.
A student choir performed.
A second dance featured a man and a woman in elaborate bird costumes.
Bishop Olivier is known for his non-traditional clerical clothes made with Cambodian materials and styling.