About every eighteen months, the Cambodia Mission Team–the members of Maryknoll serving in Cambodia—has a planning meeting to examine what we are currently doing and to examine the signs of the times and what is going on within Maryknoll and in Cambodia that might require a response. This year we met on a government holiday when most of us could be available.
Every year the Don Bosco technical schools have a Christmas Bazaar at which they sell food and student-made items and also sing and dance and just have fun. Click here to see the 2017 bazaar.
Cambodia is 94% Buddhist and especially outside of the cities there is little understanding of Christianity, and Christmas—which people will have heard of–will be seen as just a western holiday where the foreigners wear Santa Claus costumes and decorate their homes with evergreen trees and lots of ornaments and lights. Christmas is not celebrated throughout the culture at all but most western families and groups will mark the birth of Christ with church services and parties at Christian-based NGOs. Click here to see how the English Catholic community began its Christmas season.
Electricity is still not a given in Cambodia. I think now the percentage of the population with access to electricity is about 34% and where it is available, it is quite expensive.
Cambodia is now buying more electricity from Vietnam and the supply is more reliable. Previously because the grid was so weak and the price so high, air conditioning was a luxury and was never part of the original design of a building. Now it is still a luxury but more and more people feel they can afford it so external air con units are appearing in more and more places. Here fifteen of them have been added to the top floor of a residential block. Individual units are now not such a rarity but it will still be a while before architects think of central air conditioning for a building here.
Some Catholic people comment “I don’t get anything out of mass.” First, it is important to remember that the eucharist is not entertainment so we need to temper our expectations about what we feel when we go to mass.
Secondly, because the mass is not entertainment and we don’t approach it passively expecting someone to make us feel good without our doing anything–like going to a funny movie which might cheer us up when we’re down, we might appreciate the experience of the eucharist better if we prepare for it.
I’d like to offer some resources to help us do that. These are websites or e-mail mailing lists that give some thoughts about the readings for the coming weekend. Since many Christian churches now use the same common lectionary (book of Sunday readings) as the Catholics, these resources could benefit Christians from a variety of denominations.
These resources present the readings so you can read them in advance and then they offer some insights about how the readings developed, why Jesus said what he did or the evangelist included it in his gospel, and then some comments to help us appreciate what we will hear on Sunday.
The first resource I’d like to suggest is First Impressions. It’s written by a group of Dominican priests based in Texas. They offer not only thoughts on the scripture readings but several other helpful items that might help you develop your spiritual life. Give it a try, bookmark it, and click on it each week!
This is a scene that wasn’t possible when I first came to Cambodia. In 2000 there was one “tall” building and that was ten stories. Now we have this bank building and others that are 40+ stories tall and others are under construction to surpass that.
Today we had another of our bi-monthly priests meeting for all the clergy of the Phnom Penh vicariate (another name for a diocese in a mission country). We had a report on the trip to Myanmar by 126 people from the vicariate to see the pope there and then some time for prayer and then some business items. Then it was time for lunch together and Bishop Olivier (back to us) gave special recognition to the priests who have birthdays or ordination anniversaries this month.
This evening we had a blessing for the new Flavors of Saffron restaurant opened by a Pakistani refugee family who just recently arrived in Cambodia after fleeing religious persecution in their home country. I have worked with quite a few refugees in my years in Cambodia but have never seen a family work so hard and so fast to get themselves established and in control of their own lives.
The bishop’s house on the Mekong River, where we had our lay missioner meeting, offered a viewing point for fishing activity on the river. Click here for some photos of the people fishing and their boats.
Lay missioners in Cambodia from a variety of mission groups like Maryknoll and from a variety of countries meet regularly and today was the meeting for December. Click here for pictures of the Mekong River site and the activities.