The Catholic Parish of St. John and its sub-communities in Siem Reap, Cambodia, together with our Bishop and all the Catholic communities in the Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang congratulates all our friends and sister parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of East Anglia for the appointment of Rev Peter Collins. We join you in this great joy and we pray for you all and Bishop Peter Collins. May God shower His grace and abundant blessing on all our communities.
Taom Church Inaugurated
See Photos BEFORE and AFTER Renovation
In its 140 years of existence as a Catholic Community, the Church of St. Mary in Taom has been inaugurated yesterday, September 25, 2022 in the presence of the Christian community, village leaders, priests, and the honored guest Mdme Bernadette Chow Yoke Keng from Singapore who helped greatly in the renovation of the church. During Cambodia’s civil war from 1970-1990, the Church was bombed, destroyed, abandoned as later used as cow shed and rice mill. Some machine gun shots have been preserved on some parts of the wall to remember this past. The inaugurated began with a procession led by the Cross of Christ around three times around the church. Then a ribbon at the door was cut by church leaders and village leaders. Mdme Yoke Keng turned over the key of the Church to Fr. Totet who oversaw the renovation and turned over the key to the new parish priest, Fr. Glenn Bibero, MHM.
Here: Restoration Plan for Taom Church
Mass was held in thanksgiving for this new gift. The day of the inauguration was also the big feast of Pchhum Ben when Cambodians remember the beloved dead. In his homily, Fr. Totet talked about grace of God bringing us all together as a community, renewed in faith through the marks of the suffering we encountered in life.
LAYING OF “FOUNDATION SOIL”
After the homily, soil samples were buried under the altar to represent the coming together of people as a community proclaiming the faith. The soil samples were from
- Old Cemetery of Taom
- Via Appia in Rome, near the Catacombs, place of early Christian Martyrs
- Loyola Spain, Birthplace of St. Ignatius
- Pamplona, Spain, where St. Ignatius was hit by a bullet
- Montserrat, Spain, where Ignatius prayed and made vigil before Mary, our Mother
- Manresa, Spain, where Ignatius developed and deepend his knowledge of Jesus.
- St. Ignatius Parish, Singapore (representing Mdme Yoke Keng), Donor
- Soil from the residence of Mr. Kai Seng and Mdme Angela Tan and Family, Donor for other projects
- Soil from the residence of Mdme Margaret WAN and family in Singapore, Donor for other projects
- Soil from Khna thmey, Siem Reap City, representing the missionary efforts of Thoem Thon
- Object from Wao Lanao del Sur, birthplace of Fr. Totet, Parish Priest in charge of Renovation
An offertory procession followed where people brought flowers, fruits, and food from their homes.
A SHARED MEAL
After the mass the community shared their packed lunch to each other. Mdme Yoke Keng also a meal for everyone. Before this day, she distributed food packs to 25 families in Piak Snaeng Chas, 25 families in Jesus Farm, and 50 families in taom living on both sides of the river.
OLDEST CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CAMBODIA
The Church of St. Mary is the oldest Catholic Church in Cambodia and can be estimated to have existed for 110 years now. It is fitting to call it the “Mother Church” that holds unto itself the memory of the joys and suffering of its people.
In 2023, we are looking forward to a bigger pilgrimmage to bless the Church Altar and the whole Church. This event will hopefully be attended by the three bishops of Cambodia, former members of Taom community in diaspora, representative from all Churches in Cambodia, and friends/benefactors from other countries especially Singapore.
Taom Suspension Bridge Inaugurated
The Suspension Bridge linking Taom in Banteay Meanchey Province to Koh Kruich Village in Siem Reap Province was inaugurated today, September 25, 2022 with Mdme Bernadette Chow Yoke Keng representing all the donors. The construction of the bridge began on February 20, 2020 but Covid pandemic came. Work was delayed in many phases and was only finished on October 20, 2020. The structures were designed by Fr. Totet Banaynal, SJ and Mr. Iem Rithy.
Bridge Location: In front of Ta Om Catholic Church, Ta Om Village, Prasat Commune, Preahnet Preah District, Banteay Meanchey Province.
13°28’31.3″N 103°23’55.1″E, 13.475367, 103.398648 Please google Ta Om Catholic Church
This Cable Suspension Bridge (Hanging Bridge), 74 meters in length between main towers, 1.5 meters wide bridge deck, with tower height of 6 meters, all made of concrete and steel connecting from in front of the Catholic Church in Taom Village (Banteay Meanchey Province) crossing the river to Kok Kruich (Siem Reap Province). It also includes construction of 30-m retaining wall on the west end of the bridge that serves as stairs for villagers to reach to the water for children to wash, bathe or swim, mothers to wash clothes, and also for small boats to dock and deliver goods to and from the village.
A NEIGHBORHOOD SEPARATED BY A RIVER
At the time when the Church was founded in this place in 1880, people moved from one place to another in the surrounding areas by means of boats. Gradually, the government built an access (rough) road on the opposite side of the river allowing people to travel to the highway, 13 kilometers away.
The Church has been doing a lot of social works here to help alleviate poverty since 2002, when the church was turned over back by the government to the Catholic community after the genocial regime of Pol Pot. The Church was in a total wreck and was used as a ricemill and cow barn. The church reached out to the poor, most of whom are Buddhists, because most of the original Catholics have died or fled away during the war.
But the river separated the villages; their people hardly interact with each other; during the Church’s meeting with the village leaders on the villages by the river, they expressed the big and pressing need to have their communities connected my means of a bridge from the front of the Church to the other side of the river. In fact, to show their excitement at this possibility, the villagers collected USD500.00 among themselves to purchase a piece of private to be used as connector access from the end of the bridge to the existing village road. Now they are just waiting for the Church to facilitate that a suspension bridge will be built.
BENEFICIARIES: 7,000 Persons
On both side of the bridge, 7 villages will be directly benefitted: Taom, Kok Kruich, Sombuor, Omal Kraom, Bot Trong, O Pchhul, and Anlong Sa with a total estimated population of 7,000 persons. Two villages right at both ends of the bridge are Taom (200 families, 1000 persons) and Kok Kruich (155 families, 800 persons).
Mobility especially for school children and people going to Pagodas.
The Bridge benefits especially children and teachers who need access to elementary schools on both sides. The Church has a kindergarten school and 2 classes that offer catch-up sessions in reading, writing, and mathematics. Kinder: 2 classes, 40 children; Catch up classes, 2 classes, 70 children. These services will be open accessible to the children from the other side of the bridge, too.
The bridge also facilitates the villagers when they go to various pagodas during feast days – Wat Bat Trong, Wat Tonlop, and Wat Sambor.
More Beneficiaries for Church Outreach
For the longest time, the Church knew the people on the other side of the river. We are only informed that there used to be Christians there who came to Church before the Pol Pot Regime. The bridge will allow the church to know the people there and extend her outreach and services like house repair assistance, visit and medication for the sick, hygiene and sanitation training for mothers, guidance for mothers, care of the elderly, and care and formation of the children. Further, the bridge will allow the people from the other side of the bridge to renew or establish their relationship with the Church.
We thank our donor from Australia through the Jesuit Mission Australia. He financed the construction of the main bridge and prefers to remain anonymous. We also thank Mdme Bernadette Chow Yoke Keng and her friends Mdme Jackie Ang, Mr. & Mrs. Henry Sim, and Mr. and Mrs. Tan Kai Seng for the generous donation to construct the retaining wall. We also thank the villagers for collecting among themselves some cash to purchase the small piece of land occupied by the bridge on the east side, and our thanks for Mr. Iem Rithy, our contractor, for purchasing the land adjacent to it to serve as parking lot beside the bridge.
The two lions giving big smiles may make this bridge “a bridge of happiness” as it connects people’s lives.
In St. John the Apostle Catholic Church, wood carvings form the other important aspect of our community enterprise. The Cambodian people are tremendously gifted in the art of wood crafts. In and around Siem Reap are numerous “cottage industries” involving wood carvings done by the locals in their very own backyards. Thus, the Church provides a venue for these local artisans to showcase their talents while at the same time earning honest remuneration from the works of their hands.
Visit our St. John’s Gift Shop at the Parish grounds and help support our local artisans!