Every year two students from the University of Notre Dame in the United States come to Cambodia to be part of the Maryknoll community as part of their school work. Last week two young women arrived to spend the summer of 2017 with us.
Margarita “Mar” Borromeo Diego is a sophomore at Notre Dame. She is originally from the Philippines where she began her university studies.
Olivia “Liv” Donnelly is a junior at Notre Dame. She is from Connecticut.
Liv and Mar arrived last week and had met most of the Maryknoll community in Cambodia but today they gathered with the whole group for our weekly liturgy and dinner together. Here they watch as Maria Montello prepares the first hymn for our liturgy.
Well, now I know what it’s like to be at the pinnacle of power! Today I parked my bicycle (the first one in the row above) down near the farther window because that is where the other bicycles were. But when I came out, the guard had moved my bike up to the head of the line, basically creating an executive parking space. I have to be careful not to let the power and prestige go to my head….
The conclusion of Pope Francis’ address to a special joint session of Congress in September, 2015:
“A nation can be considered GREAT when it defends liberty as Lincoln did; when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work; the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.”
We are living in a new and unprecedented era, one in which the President of the United States knowingly, repeatedly lies before the nation and the world. Who would have thought we would come so low as a nation?
It is a dangerous and uncharted situation we find ourselves in, and we need to develop new strategies for survival. One I have seen discussed by the heads of major journalism organizations–and which is illustrated by this New York Times headline–is for the media now to concentrate not on the content of what Trump says but on its truthfulness, and to call a lie a lie and not use euphemisms for it.
Today was the first day of 2017 and it was a good start to a new year. It started early. I left home at 5:55 AM for a 6:30 AM mass with the Salesian Sisters in Teuk Thla, across town. They were having a Family Day at their school and so couldn’t go out for mass as they usually do. Then I went to St. Joseph Church for the 10:00 AM mass there.
Then in the afternoon, after doing some work at home, I went to Waffle Magic, a new little shop set up by a young couple from our English Catholic community. That was a fun experience although I didn’t get to see Hannah Lyn and Martin there. When I was leaving I managed to run into a group of deaf people outside the shop, and while we were talking two more groups of deaf people came along and it was wonderful to catch up with them, a fine young group.
A couple weeks ago I noted that several stupas and an archway at a prominent wat were being painted in an odd choice of colors. Now it seems the paint job is completed and the wat looks brighter but also traditional. The white color was an undercoat of paint, a primer, and the red was partly a primer and partly a final decorative color. This is how that same wat looks today.
Buddhist wats or temples tend to have muted yellows and browns as the primary colors of their buildings; nothing too dramatic. But today, going past this wat on the riverfront, I was surprised to see the white and rather garish red colors that have appeared on the gateway arch and on some of the stupas in which famous monk leaders and other dignitaries are buried. I’ve never seen anything like the white and red paint in a wat. I’ll have to ask what it means although it could be something as plebeian as an undercoating to prepare for later more traditional coats of paint.
On the day after Thanksgiving, the Maryknoll team was invited to the Sokha Hotel for their Christmas tree lighting ceremony, the beginning of the hotel’s holiday season. We were invited because one of our former students is now working at the hotel.
The program began with some Christmas carols sung by the children in blue shirts, from a children’s organization that had its roots in Maryknoll fifteen years ago. The Christmas tree was set up in the main lobby of the hotel which is quite impressive because of its size.
Other music was provided by a professional tenor and then the songs sung by the choir above, most of whom are Filipino choir members from the English Catholic community.
The English-speaking Catholic community borrows a hall in an old building at St. Joseph Church on the north side of Phnom Penh. We had been leery of making any renovations because the plan is to tear this building down to build a real church on the rear part of the church compound. Earlier this year, though, we learned that the planned demolition will not happen for several years so we are going ahead with plans to air condition the hall as cheaply as we can.
One of the first steps was to cover over the ventilation slots you can see at the top of the wall. They allowed air–and birds–to flow through freely. We also had to add more lights now that we are having some night-time services here.
This is a picture in mid week when the workmen are getting the room right before adding stand-alone air conditioning units along the walls.
Today Mr. Paul O’Callaghan, the CEO of Caritas Australia, came to visit the Deaf Development Programme in Phnom Penh. Caritas Australia has supported DDP for quite a few years but Paul had not had a chance to visit us until today. This evening we took a dinner cruise on the Mekong River and Paul spoke to staff and leaders of Caritas and of the organizations they fund.