Fr Klement with Don Bosco Cambodia teachers August 2014
Fr. Klement Vaclav, general councilor for East Asia-Oceania region, meets the delegates of the Cambodian Don Bosco Past Pupils Association in Phnom Penh. Photo ANS

ANS – Phnom Penh – During the first animation visit to the THA – Cambodia Delegation, erected by the Rector Major on February 19, 2014 by Fr Chávez, the Regional Councillor EAO, Fr Václav Klement, visited almost all presences in Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Battambang and Poipet, and saw the rich vocational growth of the Salesian Family in that country.

The most important day was August 6, one full day with all 8 SDB living and working in Cambodia currently (8 other SDBs are now studying abroad). During the Recollection which focused on the spirit of GC27 (Witnessing), and as part of the assembly of confreres, Fr Klement listened to all dreams and challenges of the incipient Delegation, which is the result of the hard work and commitment over 25 years of many pioneer missionaries for the youth of Cambodia.

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From left to right: Br. Roberto Panetto (director Don Bosco Hotel School), Fr. John Visser, DBFC’s (country representative and rector Don Bosco Sihanoukville), Fr. Leo Ochoa (director Don Bosco Children Fund), Fr. Roel Soto (Delegation superior and rector Don Bosco Phnom Penh), Fr. Klement Vaclav (councilor for the East Asia – Oceania region), Br. Daniel (young missionary learning Khmer language in Don Bosco Phnom Penh), Fr. Mark (learning Khmer in Phnom Penh), Fr. Eugene Xalxo (director of studies at Don Bosco Sihanoukville and Fr. Albeiro Rodas (Samnang, rector Don Bosco Kep). Photo ANS (2014)

At present there are 16 SDBs (2 Khmer), 24 FMAs (2 Khmer), 6 SIHM Sisters (1 Khmer and 1 novice), about 24 Salesian Cooperators, some 900 registered Past Pupils of Don Bosco, two incoming VDB aspirants (both Khmer) and FMA Past Pupils in the Delegation. This rich vocational growth is a mirror of the young and dynamic Cambodian Catholic community which has emerged from the ashes with the help of many missionaries from far and wide.

As is also the case in Laos, there are no dioceses as yet in Cambodia. Phnom Penh is a Vicariate and Battambang and Kompong-Cham are Prefectures. Altogether there are some 75 priests – 5 of them local Khmer. There are many religious, missionary societies and already a few thousand young Catholics.

In the five SDB settings: Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Kep, Battambang and Poipet, there are hundreds of  committed teachers, most of them past pupils, teaching more than 2000 students.

Although there are only two canonical communities (Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville), the Salesian mission is carried out by many Lay Mission Partners, volunteers, two diocesan priests (one who has, in the meantime, become a Salesian Cooperator and Coordinator of the ACS Centre in Phnom Penh) and many past pupils who have deeply identified with Don Bosco and his mission.

Although there are many challenges in the fast-changing Cambodian social, economic and religious situation, the profile of Salesian works has remained alert to this fast-shifting reality. The youthful composition of  teachers, other educators – among them many young, recently baptized Catholics – is a great asset!

The Delegation is planning to bring everyone together for a 3 day celebration at the end of January 2015, in Phnom Penh. They foresee the presence of Church and civil authorities, 4,000 or more past pupils (SDB and FMA) and all seven groups of the Salesian Family in the country.

By Klement Vaclav