Soft Target

Last Easter three churches were bombed by terrorists in Sri Lanka and 290 people were killed. World Vision International became concerned about its facilities around the world and has them to increase their security practices. The English Catholic community rents the auditorium of World Vision in Phnom Penh for its Saturday evening mass and now we need to introduce new security measures. We had an extensive meeting with World Vision and heard their requests for really stringent measures that wouldn’t be suitable for a church service, e.g., signing in and signing out, bringing no bags, backpacks, etc.

In the end we arranged that all our members will be issued ID badges which they must wear each week. Because we get tourists and others coming to our services irregularly, people without badges will be asked to sign in and possibly have their backpacks checked. It’s a nuisance but a measure we can live with. About ten years ago I was talking to an official of the U.S. State Department and he cautioned me that our congregation would be a prime soft target for terrorists. It’s all foreigners, we have various ambassadors and UN officials coming, and it would generate a lot of publicity which would be attractive to the terrorists.

Simbang Gabi in Phnom Penh

The Philippines has a pre-Christmas tradition called Simbang Gabi in which, every morning on the nine days before Christmas–at 4:30 AM or 5:30 AM–everyone attends mass in their parish church. The Philippines Embassy couldn’t replicate the full custom here but is having masses in the evening on the first three days of Simbang Gabi. Fr. Charlie Dittmeier was asked to preside.

On the first evening, after the mass, the Phnom Penh Choral Ensemble performed a medley of Christmas carols.

Not much business…

I have been planning to get a haircut at the DDP barber shop where we train young deaf men. The road–terrible before–is even worse now because of construction on the road, and I could barely get to our barber shop.

Here is our trainee crew at the barber shop and you can see why they have given few haircuts the last few days. I could barely get there with my bicycle. I couldn’t ride it but had to push it through the mud and soft dirt.
A hundred meters beyond the barber shop is the reason for the mud and disruption: a road crew is installing a large new sewer line that everyone hopes will eliminate the constant flooding during the rainy season. The red wooden building in the background is the site of the former Maryknoll village health and education project run by Sr. Regina Pellicore.

Unusual Vehicles

Topics: Traffic Rules

In a country like Cambodia where there is little regulation or even a sense of discipline, anything goes. In terms of personal style like clothing, hair color, etc., it doesn’t much affect society, but the same easy-going style influences things like traffic where just about any kind of vehicle, with or without standard safety features, is fit for the road. Here are a few unusual vehicles that appear around Phnom Penh.

E-mail woes…

While I was in the US, my e-mail client (the software that I use to read and write e-mail) got corrupted and I have been fighting with it ever since. The software puts markers on e-mails that have arrived and flags them as read, deleted, etc. Somehow the markers got scrambled and I have not been able to view some of the mail that I downloaded to the computer but now cannot display. I’m sorry if I haven’t answered something you sent me!

USA Trip — #9

Monday in Kentucky

My main activity centered on lunch and dinner today. Before and after those meals, I was able to do a lot of work on the computer. Especially I need to prepare a homily for next weekend since I will get in to Phnom Penh late Friday afternoon and have to preach the next day.

At lunch time I met with a group of former seminarians from St. Thomas Seminary in Louisville. They were students a couple years after I finished there but I have known them, especially through David Browne, my brother-in-law who was in that class with them. We had a really enjoyable lunch with them and their wives.

For dinner I met with a super group of women, all working in sign language interpreting for the Louisville Catholic Deaf Community. We go way back, when I taught some of them in high school. L-R: Norma Lewis, Sally Newton, Peg Darcy, Donna Laswell, Nancy and Patrick Reynolds. A wonderful group!

Not a good night…

It’s Saturday morning now in Phnom Penh. Last night I was trying to do an update here on the website but a convergence of hardware, software, and scheduling gremlins intervened. After opening and working on the computer twice and after re-installing some programs, I think I’m back on the air now.


I have been having a terrible time with reports due to New York yesterday and then several other tasks that have kept me away from the keyboard. I hope to get back on track on Saturday.