A total of 49 students from the St Justin School of Faith from Phnom Penh, Cambodia came to visit the Church of Divine Mercy, Penang at the invitation of Rt Rev Bishop Sebastian Francis. They were accompanied by Bishop Olivier M. M. Schmitthaeusler, Fr. Damien Farhner and Fr Peter Ly. Bishop Olivier who is the Coadjutor Apostolic Vicar of Phnom Penh helped translate the welcoming speech of Bishop Sebastian as well as the commentary on the history CDM from English to the Cambodian language as most of he students spoke little English. They had just come from St Anne’s Church in BM after a visit to Kuala Lumpur.
According to Fr Damien who takes care of the South Pastoral Sector of Phnom Penh, these students are made up of young working adults, some of whom are married and have families. This was the third batch of students who attend weekend classes on Bible knowledge and liturgy. When the Khmer Rouge reign under Pol Pot came to power in 1975 all churches in Cambodia were destroyed and the Catholic population was reduced to 4,000. The present Bishop Olivier is a bishop without a cathedral. Since 1979 after the reign of the Khmer Rouge the population today has grown to around 20,000 Catholics. The aim of the St Justin School of Faith is to prepare the Catholics for pastoral care in parishes where the churches are being rebuilt. The visit to Malaysia is one planned each year by Bishop Olivier. The students are given some idea of the life outside Cambodia as well as to gain exposure of the many different kinds of Catholic parishes. When asked of her visit to Penang, a student, Teresa remarked that at first she was apprehensive knowing that Malaysia is a Muslim country. But she was pleasantly surprised at the beautiful parishes she has seen and the freedom given for worship. Cambodian Delegation with Fr Damien, Fr Martin, Bishop Sebastian & Bishop Olivier
After the briefing, Bishop Olivier joined 13 other students for immersion in the baptismal pool to renew their baptismal promises. A student remarked that they had full immersion too when they were baptized. The others then followed suite by washing their faces in the holy water of the pool. At a request, Bishop Sebastian gave permission for a special veneration of the relics of St Faustina and St Pope John Paul II. Bishop Olivier was especially pleased as his patron saint was JPII and he had been trying unsuccessfully to obtain the relics.
As a token of appreciation of their visit here, CDM treated the delegation to lunch where they were given a taste of Cambodian food ala Malaysian style. For all those who were present at this visit, it was really heart warming to note that such a strong faith following persists in a country that is 99 % Buddhist. With this in mind, we in Malaysia have so much more to look forward to, if we just have greater faith.
Dr. Ivan Filmer
4th August, 2017