The Khmer Rouge wiped out the clergy of the Catholic Church during their reign of terror. One Khmer priest who was in Canada at that time was asked to return, and he has been the only native priest since the 1970s. Today four young Khmer men were ordained priests, a great event for the Catholic community of Cambodia. Now they can see Khmer men leading their communities.
The ordination was held at the Khmer parish--the only one--in Phnom Penh, but the crowd was so huge--three to five thousand people--that the ceremony was held under tents in the courtyard. Two of the young men will serve in Phnom Penh, one in Kampong Cham, and one in Battambang, so all three bishops from those areas participated in the ceremony, and then presented their new priests to the people who had come from all over the country for the occasion.
|These four young men have studied 15 to 16 years in preparation for the priesthood, through very difficult years. Here they line up in the small chapel of the Khmer parish where all the priests were vesting and the procession was to begin.|
|Part of every ordination ceremony is a prostration of the deacons to be ordained during the singing of the Litany of the Saints. It is a sign of humbly asking the help of the whole church for the task ahead of them.|
|Three to five thousand people attended the ordination ceremony which was held in the courtyard of the Khmer parish. That is at least 20% of the entire Catholic church of Cambodia.|
|These five men were the altar servers for the ordination ceremony. They were exceedingly well prepared and made the ceremony flow quite smoothly. Note their distinctive Khmer traditional dress.|
|After the ordination, tables were set up among the chairs and lunch was served for the entire crowd. Here is part of the cooking tent were the crew was preparing rice, fish, and vegetables.|
|A small army of waiters carried the platters and bowls of food from the cooking tent to the waiting tables with their hungry thousands.|
|Feeding the large crowd almost had biblical implications, like the story where Jesus ordered his disciples to feed the multitudes because they had come a long way and might faint on the way home without food. Some of these people had traveled 12 to 15 hours to come to Phnom Penh for the ordination.|