Cambodia: Celebrating St Joseph’s Day amid Coronavirus Concerns

Feast day greetings from Siem Reap!!!

We hope you are all well in spite of the present pandemic-Covid19 which bitterly disturbed all our activities including the feast day celebration. In Siem Reap, we we’re able to offer mass in the morning presided by Fr. Totet, SJ which we concelebrated. Since public gathering is not allowed at the moment we did not invite parishioners to come so only three of us were there offering the intentions of the parishioners to God. It was not a usual situation because normally, St Joseph’s feast day wherever we are, is a big celebration usually attended by hundreds of people. This time, it is sad that we could not celebrate it grandiosely but we were assured and comforted by Jesus himself who said that, “for where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them-Mt.18:20″.

In his homily, Fr Totet recognised and thanked us for our apostolic presence in the prefecture of Battambang and gave us words of encouragement to persevere and put more effort in our language studies. As he continued, he quoted Fr Franco, a PIME priest from Italy who was in deep sorrow especially upon hearing the tragic death of almost 500 people yesterday alone in his home region. For him, the word of God to Joseph saying, “do not be afraid” was something very powerful and comforting for him. But, he also realised that, when God says do not be afraid, God is not only saying beautiful words of consolation but also words of assurance that God will be with him. This message of assurance is very fitting for us today, as we are threatened by with the pandemic-covid19, that God is in our side, walking with us. From Him derives our strength because he is faithful to his promise and He will never abandon us as He did with Mary through the help of Joseph”.

We had a simple dinner fellowship with some of our parish staffs, Map and Sithim, and priests, Fr’s. Totet, Franco, Jup, Glenn and Yacob. Fr Ros, a Cambodian clergy, who just returned from the Philippines after his short course joined us as well. We prepared different varieties of foods from Italian, Indian, Filipino, and Cambodian delicacies, freshly cooked by our joint efforts. It was a simple yet very memorable gathering of friends commemorating the day of St. Joseph.

With regards to the present situation in Siem Reap in dealing with Covid-19, the parish priest informed the Bishop through email which we quote:

“On Wednesday, the Ministry of Religion and Cults in Siem Reap phoned the chairman of our parish council, advising to hold on any big public gatherings like Masses starting immediately. Therefore, the following will be observed:

  1.      IN SIEM REAP (center)
  2.    All masses (Daily including the anticipated Saturday masses and Sundays) are cancelled following order from the Ministry of Cults and Religion.
  3.      Church is open from 6AM to 7PM for individual prayer.
  4.      Confessions will be avoided for the time being.
  5.     All staffs have been permitted to go home to their families.  Only the guard will be on duty every night.  All domestic/household works  like cleaning grounds and house, cooking, marketing, etc. will be done by priests and the remaining volunteers (Agatha and Pheak).
  7. All masses are cancelled.  The faithful have been advised to pray in their houses. Local work leaders will monitor Church properties.
  8. All Classes are suspended from March 9 until April 30.
  9. There will be hardly or at least a minimum of village visitation by any staff from Siem Reap.

Fr Totet encourages the people to pray in the church by themselves or pray in their homes. Alcohol hand cleanser is placed at the church door for people to use.

In this very trying moment especially with the Covid19 and the worsening family situation, Fr Yacob reflected on the words “Fear not for I am with you”.  This for him, are the assuring words of our God to Joseph and to us at this moment of fear in which the whole world is living in and crying for help today. St Joseph who dreamt of leaving Mary as his wife was led into light to living an exemplary family life. St Joseph the silent worker strengthened by the Spirit took Mary as his wife and brought us the Saviour to this world.

Today, there are hundreds and thousands of families living in disputes and divisions for they fail to have mutual relationship and understand of what a family means. Joseph, Mary and Jesus are the Holy family who hand in hand fulfil the will of God. Today, as missionaries, the urgent need is pray for families that weak in their mutual relationships. We pray that the good Lord may open our eyes to see the light and follow Him. We continue to pray for each other and continue the good work that was begun and given to us to carry on spreading the Good News of  God.”

We continue to pray that all these difficulties shall pass.

Yours in the Lord,

Yacob and Glenn, MHMs in Cambodia

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