"Be a true missionary of Saint Vincent de Paul, a missionary in Cambodia." These are the final words of Nun Mercedes Disu, a Daughter of Charity member, before leaving Cambodia after a 20-year mission.
Speaking with a smile, welcoming guests and many people who came to her farewell ceremony, the nun said, "Foreign missionaries will leave Cambodia for another country one day like me."
This nun encouraged all members of the Saint Vincent de Paul association, especially the youth, to participate in activities to serve the people, especially the poor, to receive blessings from God.
"As I always say, every time you visit the poor, you meet God," Nun recalls.
Mercedes Disu is from the Philippines and arrived in Cambodia in 1999. This Catholic nun does a lot of work focusing on the education of children and young people.
"I was active with a lot of kids and now they are grown up and some are in college. I see that they have a lot of creative ideas to serve the poor," Mercedes Disu confirms.
In addition to educational programs, the nun has developed sports activities for youth and children. "Through sports, many children join catechumenate classes and become Christians," she said.
Speaking with a sad face, recalling the first time she arrived in Cambodia, the 79-year-old nun said she had seen many children who were big enough but not yet enrolled in school because Cambodia had just ended the war.
The idea of helping those children and young people kept in her mind, "What can I do for these children?" she asked.
Later, Mercedes Disu organized several social services, such as community-based kindergartens in Battambang province, such as Battambang city, Ta Hen and Tum Poung, which continue today.
Another charity action was set up when Cambodians needed encouragement and some help to improve their lives. The nun started to form the group of young people of the Saint Vincent de Paul Group in 2004 and established several locations in each parish in Cambodia.
"I established the first Saint Vincent de Paul Associations in Battambang and Pailin in 2011," says Mercedes Disu.
Saint Vincent de Paul is a partner of a charity church group. They are working to assist poor people. The only thing that can help is to visit and distribute materials and groceries. The nuns visit the elderly at the hospital and teach English to children and young people almost every Sunday, according to Sarika, 42, the first former staff member to work with Mercedes Disu.
Phan Bora, a board member of the Saint Vincent de Paul association, said that when the association first began in 2004, the nun always encouraged the association to be active.
"If we were the leaders sitting, the followers would fall asleep, but if the leaders went forward, the walkers would run," Bora added.
He said he had known the nun since 2004 and had seen her visit everywhere, especially during some of Saint Vincent de Paul's spiritual training sessions.
"She was always there and encouraged me and all the members. This is a part that she has been helping the association with for almost 20 years now. She still loves this mission and encourages us to take care of the poor," Bora said.
Ms. Sun Sarika said, "Sister Mercedes Disu is a lovely nun because she works tirelessly to see her children and young people happy. She is patient with a lot of children. She helps a lot of children in Battambang."
A former employee continued that no matter where she went, the villagers always respected the nun because she sacrificed a lot for the Cambodian youth and children. Sarika added that the nuns also taught many of her staff to love children, to share, and to be patient with them because they needed warmth.
After more than 20 years of service in Cambodia, Sister Mercedes Disu returned to her home country to continue her new mission. She left Cambodia on August 19, 2022. - Kagna KEO
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