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'Serving the church is the same as serving Jesus,' says Cambodian Catholic

Vichet ON, in charge at the Phnom Penh Thmey Welcome Center, Phnom Penh Vicariate, Cambodia. (Photo supplied)

The big, fair-skinned man is busy with guests and arranging tasks for members of his reception team. He is in charge of the Phnom Penh Thmey Welcome Center, where there are many gatherings from parishes in the Phnom Penh Vicariate.

Vichet ON said, "Service is very difficult. We cannot be perfect. "

He added, however, that Catholics are well aware that "serving the church is serving Jesus."

Vichet came to work in this position in 2015.

The Phnom Penh Thmey Center, which includes accommodation, restaurants, meeting rooms, and auditoriums, has resumed operations as usual after the government reopened the country after COVID-19. During the pandemic, work was almost weekly for his small group of six members. 

Vichet ON with guests during a church ceremony at the center (Photo supplied)

Due to the large area and many places, there is a lot of work for some members, making the reception less intimate.

"Some say the place is not clean, the food is not delicious or our hospitality is not wholehearted," he said.

He added, as the son of a farmer family from Kampot province, "Because I am a weak person, sometimes I get angry with those critics, and I often consider quitting this job."

Amidst criticism, faith, daily prayer, listening to God's Word, and a priest's spiritual guidance helped Vichet On to accept and continue his work forward. The priest came from a Buddhist family.

Vichet reminded himself that every guest was in the presence of Jesus.

He said he got to know the Catholic Church in 2000 as part of a scholarship student program, and he and some of his friends participated in the youth activities in the church in Kampot Province, including visiting the elderly and the poor.

"I did not know who Jesus was," he added. However, all of the activities organized by the community encouraged him to be happy and to share his love as a family with all young people.

As a result, Vichet gradually began to understand and learn about Jesus. He was baptized in 2004 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Kampot, about 154 km from the capital, in the south of Cambodia.

The majority of religions in Cambodia are Buddhist (about 95% of the 16 million people) and Catholic (about 20.000). 

Vichet ON and his family (Photo supplied)

He said that it is not easy to change one's religion. He got many bad words from his neighbor, saying that he betrayed the Cambodian religion and did not love his parents. But Vichet's parents are not opposed to this choice.

The eldest of five siblings added that after becoming a Catholic, he changed his daily life.  Vichet said, "I lived with a smile, quiet, aware of my duty and daily activities to do with Jesus."

With others, the dialogue is done by showing the presence of God and sharing his time and faith with others who want to be a part of the fellowship of Jesus, said Vichet.

At the age of 37, he and his wife have a son and a daughter, and they educate their children to know Jesus.

"As a Catholic, going to church, listening to the Word of God, and praying is important, and my children are always there with us," he said.

At the same time, he encouraged his children to participate in the church’s events, such as the Scouts or the Altar Service.

To further motivate and set an example for his children, Vichet joined the church's charity group, helping the needy and supporting the education of poor children in the village.

He recalled that he was doing this because he had been a youth who had been helped by the church in the past.

As a Catholic, he stated that he still wanted to serve the church even if he finished his job there. He added, "I will try to live in faith by striving to proclaim the gospel through daily work, praying for those who have not yet received His light." - Lang Chhak/RVA Cambodia 


Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.”  Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.