St. James’ Catholic Church was inaugurated on January 25, by Bishop Enrique Figaredo, SJ, an Apostolic Prefect of Battambang, together with many priests, Catholic people outside and local, and also has authorities of the village, officers from religious and cult.
“When we have a church here, it is a special sign that the community is present in the society in Pursat province, it is active and active, and it allows people to see the evangelistic work of the community with good service in Pursat province,” Msgr. Enrigue said.
The light-yellow building in Pursat city, the west of Phnom Penh Capital about 200 Km, with a tiled roof and a sharp tower nearly 50 meters height, has a statue of a golden man wearing a hat, and his hand carrying crutches.
At the top, there is a carved cross. if we look at the bottom of the statue, there is a sign “St. James Catholic Church, Pursat Province.”
“The Catholic Church in Pursat has been in this province for a long time. If we talk about the parish's history, we are like in Battambang province which started in the 18th century," Bishop Enrique said.
The parish in Pursat province resumed in 1992 after the war of the Khmer Rouge regime, which destroyed infrastructure and killed nearly 2 million people, with one Christian family repatriated from the Khmer-Thai camp.
The apostolic prefect added that the St. James church reminds us to walk continually in the way of God, to serve the poor, and to proclaim the gospel, which leads to everlasting life.
According to Mr. Seila Oh Viseth, 72, a parish councilor and early Christian, who had just become a Catholic in 1989 while he was in the camp.
During the civil war in Cambodia in 1975-1979, many people split from the country to the neighboring country. They were living in the camp and many of them were converted to Catholics and returned to the country after the war finished in the 1990s.
“After the end of the Civil War, there are some remnants of old church buildings in Pursat province, and another has become the location of the police station today,” Viseth added.
Currently, there is only one Catholic community in Pursat province, located in Moanche village, Prey Nhy commune, Pursat city, Pursat province, which is mostly active in education for children and youth.
The St. James church currently has 40 Catholics, mostly adult and old. The construction of the church cost $ 370,000, which was raised by foreign and local philanthropists.
For more than ten years, the St. James church has had a group of nuns called Sisters of Christian Doctrine (SDC) striving to proclaim the gospel by establishing kindergartens and youth centers, and the gospel has grown in this area of education.
"Mary Mercy Kindergarten started in 2014, now 2022 is almost 8-9 years. Since the beginning of the kindergarten at the church in Pursat, we have borrowed a room for 20-30 students to teach them in the morning only, and then 2-3 years later, many students come,” Sr. Maria Dominica Kim, SDC, stated.
Sr. Maria, a Mary Mercy kindergarten’s principal noted that in Pursat, there were many poor people and many children who did not go to school, but the proclamation of the gospel in this area was not easy at first.
"Because the old people thought that we were a foreign religion, not a Cambodian religion, but later they changed their minds, 'Before 40 students, now more than 90 to 100," Sr. Maria added.
The mission prompted some graduated children to return to church and join catechist classes.
Sr. Maria said, “Now they are in grades 6-7, they come to church and will join catechism class. I think kindergarten is important to proclaim the gospel.”
Besides general education and catechism class activities, the church has been trying to know the situation of local people in the area and visiting them at home to show God’s love to them.
On the same day, a kindergarten of Mary Mercy was inaugurated on the grounds of St. James Church. It has four classrooms, one kitchen, one children's lounge, one dining area, and one office. The school building costs about 150,000 US dollars. - By Kagnha Keo
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