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Cambodia to get 3 new priests soon

The three new deacons with Bishop Olivier Michel Marie Schmitthaeusler, Vicar Apostolic of Phnom-Penh, Cambodia (Photo by RVA News)

The sound of Chaiyam, a traditional Khmer music form, leads in front of a procession of three young men.

The three students of St. Jean Marei Vianney Seminary in Phnom Penh offered to dedicate themselves to God, accompanied by their parents and priests and bishops in Cambodia, to the Deaconate Ordination.

In his homily, Bishop Olivier Michel Marie Schmitthaeusler, Vicar Apostolic of Phnom-Penh, Cambodia, said, "God is calling three of you to eternal life on the cross."

He continued that the pastors were "serving God" by offering eternal sacrifices and that from now on their lives would no longer be private. They would have to give up all personalities like Saint Stephen, the first martyr of Christianity and a deacon in the early Church of Jerusalem.

Serving God means bringing life to God for a lifetime and allowing the hopeless to join happiness with God, the prelate explained. 

He added that serving God requires love, respect, humility, and trust in Him, as well as sincerity and willingness to die for Him, knowing that God will forgive you, faithful servant. 

The Bishop said, "Serving God requires all of one's strength, not just a good mood but joy from God, who always encourages us forward."

The ceremony was held on September 10 and had less than 100 priests from across the country. 

Then, Bishop Olivier told the priests whom the three deacons would go to serve, to accompany and encourage them to live life in deacon service by heart, love, forgiveness, and humility.

After the homily, the three candidates made their vows to the Bishop in front of the 2000 Catholics who attended the ceremony to unite with the Bishop in respect and obedience. 

The Bishop then blessed them by putting his hands on the heads of each candidate and praying for God's blessing and asking the Holy Spirit to come upon them to be the servants of the altar. 

The newly ordained deacons were dressed up with dalmatics and stoles and knelt to receive the Bible from the bishop as a sign to fulfill their mission.

After that, Bishop Olivier assigned the three deacons to carry out their missions.

Deacon Anthony Ratanak THAI (Bunly) was assigned to serve in the North of Phnom Penh pastoral district with Father Paul Chatsirey ROEUNG, Deacon Paul Kan VEN, in Sihanuvile pastoral district with Father Gianluca TAVOLA, and Deacon John Baptist Samnang VY, in Phnom Penh Thmey, Takmao, and the South of Phnom Penh pastoral district under Bishop Olivier.

According to Deacon Bunly, until today he has gone through many hardships and obstacles, but all he can do is pray to God to be with Him, trusting and offering his life to God.

He was born on September 10, 1993, in Phnom Penh. During his studies in school, he stayed in the Don Bosco compound and St. Michael in Phnom Penh. He entered the seminary in 2015.

He said, "Serving the altar is the service of Christ, both ritual and human. I will live my life by taking good care of and visiting the poor." 

"I do not think God has chosen me to be a deacon because I am an ordinary person, but God has called me to honor Him," said Paul Kan VEN. "When I think like this, I am amazed at how wonderful my life is."

Paul Kan VEN was born in 1992 in Phnom Penh. He studied at Don Bosco in 2007. In 2004, he entered the major seminary.

Kan added that "love and serve" is a slogan engraved in his heart in the daily work that will be carried out after receiving the ordination of a deacon.

"Last night I could not sleep and in the morning when I was praying, I was in tears and looking at the cross," said Anthony Samnang VY, a new deacon. 

In 2008, Samnang lived in the Don Bosco compound and reflected on clergy life, even though he was the only child in a Catholic family. In 2018, he entered a major seminary.

"I feel excited," said Chandy VY, the father of Deacon Samnang. Chandy said that when the son said he wanted to be a priest from an early age, he decided to dedicate his son to God by taking him to Mass regularly.

Nguyen Yang Leung, the father of Deacon Bunly, said he had been looking forward to the ceremony for 16 years. 

He said, "I want him to fulfill his duty and bring people happiness."

Bishop Olivier said that the Cambodian community was less enlightened and that was the fruit of the three deacons’ lives; the church, the Don Bosco School, and the priest who prayed for the vocation. 

"This is strength for us to continue to proclaim the gospel so that we can become servants because deacon means ‘servant', vows to be single, to dedicate ourselves to God and the community," he said. 

At present, the Catholic Church in Cambodia has 10 native priests among nearly 100 missionaries who serve 80 parishes across the country, which was born in the 16th century.

Because the civil war in Cambodia, especially from 1975 to 1979, destroyed religions and structures, the Catholic Church was also affected.

The Cambodian bishop and his companions, religious congregations, and Catholic people were killed.

In Cambodia, Catholics are a minority group. There are only 20,000 Catholics among 16 million people. - Kagnha Keo


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