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The story of one catechumen in Cambodia

By Fr Jeon Bognam, SDB

Poipet, Cambodia, 22 October 2018 -- On the 92nd World Mission Sunday our 87 Don Bosco boarding students had no special events, indeed among them is only one Catholic girl and a few catechumens. Don Bosco (Private) Technical High School in Poipet has some 26 Catholics and a handful of catechumens scattered among 503 students who are taken care of by one SIHM Sister coming from Siem Reap. How do you become the disciple of Jesus in Cambodia?

We listen to one of our grade 12 students of Don Bosco Technical High School. Samlouth is 18 years old, in the third year of his journey as a catechumen.

Can you share about your family of origin?

I was born in Kampong Cham province, Cherng Prey district, in a family of small shop owners and mine workers After my parents divorced I was living with my stepfather. I have three brothers and one sister.

How did you encounter Don Bosco?

Due to my father, our family moved to another province, and my uncle was told about Don Bosco by one teacher at Don Bosco Poipet. So my mother decided to send me for high school (grade 10-12) to Don Bosco Poipet in 2015.

What makes you joyful at Don Bosco school?

When I came here, it was a totally new experience. I knew only from my teacher about Don Bosco. Before coming here I didn’t know anything about the Catholic religion or about Don Bosco or Mary. Here being educated in Don Bosco boarding school, we have often Mass celebrated, and many friends. We are loved by teachers and the Salesian Fathers. I love the annual activities in our school. My favourite subjects are Khmer language, biology, mathematics (I'm pushed to study hard with Mr Haejong). And we can practise English with the foreign volunteers.

What was your first meeting with Jesus and with the Catholic Church?

The first encounter with Jesus Christ only came about slowly in Don Bosco over the past 3 years. Here we sing many beautiful songs every day with gusto, and have morning and evening prayers together with a good night talk.

I didn't know about Jesus. His person was rather 'strange' but something attracted me to Jesus and I would like to join the Catholic community. Then I asked the Fathers and Sister to help me to learn about the Catholic faith. Now I am following up study of Catholic catechesis for the third year and hopefully I may be baptized next April 2019 (Easter). I don't yet have my personal Bible, I get access only when five of us study with our Thai Sister. I like many stories in the Bible, especially the story narrated by Jesus about the owner of the vineyard and the workers. I start to admire the heart of the Vineyard Owner, our loving God, our Father.

What is your favourite prayer?

Before sleeping we pray to God for protection, we regret our mistakes and ask for help in our activities. I like to pray to Mary.

Before class we pray, and in the chapel we sing, we pray for our benefactors, for our school community. Sister told us not to pray for ourselves, because it’s selfish. So I'm praying to love other people, as we love ourselves.

Which words of Jesus do you treasure in your heart?

I'm deeply touched by the love of Jesus for his enemies: Help us to love other people as ourselves. Help us to love our enemies!

Why would you like to become a Catholic - disciple of Jesus?

Before I was going to the Buddhist pagoda sometimes to pray. Now I'm joining the Mass and listening to the Word of God.

I would like to become a disciple of Jesus, in order to love other people more than myself. I would like reply to God who always loves us!

What is your life dream after graduating from Don Bosco Technical High School?

I would like to become a priest. So far I know only Fr Charles, Fr Roel, one Jesuit priest and our four Salesian priests in Don Bosco. And I watched the movie, his story before his feast. And why would like to become a priest? I met many foreign missionaries who came to help Cambodia, my country and our young people. Maybe we need more Catholic priests in Cambodia, so I would to offer my little help too.

With a prayer for all five young Khmer Salesians, two in practical training (Cambodia - Battambang and Sihakoukville), three postnovices in Sampran (Thailand) and one prenovice in Cebu (Philippines)! Recently Bishop Enrique (Kike) Figaredo, SJ - Apostolic Vicar of Battambang, challenged the Salesians during a recollection talk to capitalize more on the popularity of Don Bosco in Cambodia. Really Don Bosco does attract young people. But we need to do one more step - to invite people to also encounter the Master of Don Bosco, Jesus Christ.






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