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Mission: Cambodia . . .
a Maryknoll Family Affair

Maintained by Dan F. Onley, Pastoral Arts Associates of North America
on behalf of the Maryknoll Family ministering in Cambodia

Updated Sunday, September 3, 2000

Maryknoll Sisters - MedicalRemembering Sister Joyce Quinn, M.M.

I have become deeply interested in Maryknoll work in Cambodia because of my high regard for a personal friend committed to serving with Maryknoll in that faraway country. (Fr. Charlie Dittmeier of Louisville: more about him below!) To try to help a bit, I have had to learn a lot about both Cambodia and Maryknoll! The Maryknoll folks explain their mission this way:

"Maryknoll, The U.S. based Catholic mission movement includes: the Maryknoll Society (priests and brothers), Maryknoll Congregation (Sisters), the Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful [MMAF] (laity, priests and religious), and the Maryknoll Affiliates.

"Since 1911, Catholics in the United States have responded to the worldwide cry of the poor by becoming Maryknoll Missioners. Today, Maryknollers help people overseas build communities of faith. Some work in war zones with refugees, others minister to the sick, the elderly, orphans or people with AIDS. Through lives of service, Maryknollers translate the gospel of love into different languages and in different cultures."

The Maryknoll presence in Cambodia involves the whole Family . . . Sisters, Priests, MMAF singles and couples. This Year 2000 is seeing a few departures after many years of service, but many more new arrivals.

Maryknoll has a very inviting website of its own, so I invite you to break out of this site anytime to explore whenever you wish. Because Maryknoll reaches out to every needful corner of the globe, the purpose of THIS web page is mainly to put Cambodia-related Maryknoll initiatives at your fingertips with helpful links.

"To struggle alongside the poor
in Cambodia. . ."

Perhaps more important, I think, than Maryknoll's actual projects in Cambodia, is their no-strings-attached statement of purpose for being in that country . . .

"Maryknoll is committed to being in Cambodia, to struggle alongside the poor in Cambodia, to help them reach their goals for themselves, their society, and their country to help them strengthen the building blocks of Society which will strengthen peace in their land, and walk with them on the path to peace in their hearts."

Journey of HopeNOTICE that there is no "until the grant runs out" language in Maryknoll's unambivalent commitment to Cambodia's people. (You will indeed find such fine-print in other agency commitments.) Maryknoll missioners live very simple personal lifestyles and direct their energies on the needs of the blind, the deaf, landmine amputees, children endangered by filthy water, landmines and AIDS, in general, the "poorest of the poor."

Also, if we check other groups present in Cambodia, we find "chain of command" lists which run from the directors on "down" to volunteers. This is normal organization for many projects. The Maryknoll people representing USA Catholics in Cambodia have chosen a different model for ministering in our name. They choose simply to work together in journeying with the Cambodian people without regard for title or seniority. The team learns together about what is needed and how each member can help best, how they can cooperate with existing Cambodian or international relief agencies.

MMAF LogoThe Maryknoll people in Cambodia

The MMAF "Gang of Seven"

MMAF (Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful) in Cambodia is going through some goodbyes and many more welcomes this year!

Kim Mom
Kim is a native Cambodian who went to the US during the Vietnam War and became a citizen. Now she has returned to her home country and is the director of MM's skills training project at Wat Than.

John Tucker
John Tucker is a former financial planner from Texas. He arrived in February with his wife Kathy and is still in language school. When school is finished, he will work with infants who are HIV-AIDS infected. He will start working at an existing Maryknoll AIDS project (Seedlings of Hope) to gain experience but anticipates starting a new project which will include an AIDS hospice for small children.

Kathy Tucker
Kathy arrived in February with her husband John. They are the parents of five grown children. After language school she and John plan to work together in a program for small children with AIDS, but Kathy has special experience in physical therapy for people with disabilities and hopes to be able to use that also.

Rachel Smith
Rachel is one of our five newest members. She arrived in February from Baltimore where she worked with adults with mental disabilities. After the formal language program ends, she will live with a Khmer family for a month to improve her language Khmer skills, and then will work with one of several social service groups, especially one working with mental illness. She also teaches English two nights a week to young adults from the villages who are living at the cathedral while working and studying in Phnom Penh.

Cori Petro
Corissa is another of the five new people who arrived in Cambodia in February. She is the youngest member of the MMAF family, the first MMAFer to be accepted right after graduation from university. Her language skills are the best of the five new people and she will go to Siem Reap to live with a family there for a month before she begins a ministry either with factory workers or with a village community outreach program emphasizing health and hygiene issues.

Pat Capuano
Patrick is the most experienced of the seven MMAF members in Cambodia. He began his work here in the Rehabilitation for Blind Cambodians program in Wat Sarawan where he helped blind adults learn massage and learn to play traditional Khmer musical instruments. During the past few years he has been working with the fledgling labor unions in Cambodia. Pat is a lawyer by training. In May 2000, he was elected to the New York leadership team of the Association so he will be leaving Cambodia for this new assignment at the beginning of September.

Charlie Dittmeier
Charlie Dittmeier is another of the five new people who came to Cambodia in February 2000. For the past 12+ years he has served as a priest with the Catholic deaf community in Hong Kong. Currently in language school to learn spoken Khmer, he will also learn Khmer sign language and then begin to work with Cambodian deaf community.

Maryknoll Sisters

Luise Ahrens
Luise Ahrens is one of the most experienced members of the Maryknoll team in Cambodia. Currently she is working at the University of Phnom Penh (she has a doctorate in education) to help rebuild the school after the devastation caused by the Khmer Rouge.

Regina Pellicore
Regina Pellicore works in a small village near Phnom Penh in a community center program that offers some literacy training but primarily emphasizes basic health care. Regina is also the president of the MM NGO in Cambodia.

Len Montiel
Len Montiel, from the Philippines, works in various outreach ministries in Cambodia. She has very good language skills and most recently has helped to institute self-development programs for Khmer young people.

Juana Encalada
Juana works with Fr. Jim Noonan in the Seedlings of Hope AIDS project. Until earlier this year, it was a community outreach program that ministered to AIDS patients in their homes and helped provide medicines and care. Now the work of Seedlings has shifted to an AIDS hospice established on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

Joyce Quinn
Joyce Quinn, MM. Sr. Joyce Quinn is a nurse and had been working with Regina Pellicore in the village community health program where much of the emphasis is on basic health care. 8/4/2000: We learned sadly that Sister Joyce has today died of cancer.

Maryknoll Sisters - MedicalRemembering Sister Joyce Quinn, M.M.

Mary Little
Mary Little is a sister who is transferring to Cambodia from the Maryknoll Korea region where she has served for many years. She will arrive in September.

Maryknoll Priests

Fr. John Barth, M.M.
John Barth has spent the last nine years in Cambodia to which he was assigned right after ordination. At first,he worked in rehabilitation for blind people, but gradually shifted his emphasis to prevention of eye diseases. He started an eye hospital in the province south of Phnom Penh where doctors and nurses are trained to do eye surgery to help the rural population.

Fr. Jim Noonan, M.M.
Jim is the most experienced of our Maryknoll group in Cambodia. He has worked in AIDS programs for the past few years, first in a community-based outreach to AIDS patients who were still living at home. After that was taken over by the government, he started an AIDS hospice where dying AIDS patients are cared for.

Maryknoll Affiliates in Cambodia

Maryknoll Affiliates are the newest branch on the "Maryknoll tree." Maryknoll Affiliates are people interested in mission who join Maryknoll affiliate groups in the US and around the world to support mission. Some of them also go overseas to work in various capacities in mission areas. The Asia area has been the most active in recruiting and hosting affiliates to work in Thailand and Cambodia, usually for one to two months. At this moment, three Maryknoll Affiliates from New York are in Phnom Penh.

For current news about Cambodia Maryknoll Affiliates, Click Here!

MMAF Assigments Completed!

Kim and Patricia LaMothe
Kim and Pat had been with Maryknoll in Phnom Penh since 1995 and moved on to further ministry challenges in May 2000, most recently in East Timor. During Patricia's first three-year contract, her ministry was with the blind. Then she worked to educate physically disabled boys and girls who have never been to school. The normal school system in Cambodia is not able to accommodate disabled students because of lack of space, lack of teacher training, and lack of awareness of abilities of the disabled. The Marist Brothers of Australia have opened a school for disabled children from ages 7-18. Patricia worked at this school as a trainer of teachers, a teacher of English, and an advocate for heath care. This small school's aim is to prepare the disabled children to enter the regular school system as secondary school students.

Kim LaMothe, a master carpenter, worked in the Wat Than skills training center for Landmine and Polio Disabled. He became director of the center, which trains adults in skills such as weaving, carpentry, tailoring, English and computer usage.

MMAF Cambodia veteran Pat Capuano returns in September 2000 to begin his service on the MMAF leadership team at Maryknoll, NY.

MMAF LogoMaryknoll Projects in Cambodia

  • Step 1-A: Language School!
    Maryknollers new to Cambodia spend their first months in classes with other NGO newcomers, learning both spoken and written Khmer the old-fashioned way. The Khmer alphabet consists of 35 consonants and a few vowels.

    Here's the current Lunar date and time in real Khmer characters:
    Khmer Freeware: Lunar Date

  • Step 1-B: Learn from the People and Places in Cambodia
    Maryknoll team members come with questions and openness to learning what people really need. While still in language school, Maryknoll members new to Cambodia visit faraway villages as well as various agencies around Phnom Penh. For a good example, see the link below on Fr. Charlie Ditmmeier's website about a recent MMAF visit to Kompon Chan.

  • Fr John Barth's Ministry to the Blind
    Fr. John, from Buffalo, NY, has been in Cambodia since 1992. On weekdays, he supervises a multi-agency hospital outreach to people blinded by landmines, malnutrition and other causes. His weekends take him to villages to minister to mostly-Vietnamese Catholics.

  • Coming soon: Planning an "Ear Camp"

  • Maryknoll's Wat Than Skills Training Workshop (Photos)
    A skills training workshop at the Buddhist Wat Than has been one of Maryknoll's longest standing projects in Cambodia. Designed mainly for job training for landmine and polio victims, the workshop offers courses in English, weaving, computer skills, typing, and small business. Products from the workshops, mostly craft items attractive to tourists as gifts, are sold in a large shop on the grounds. The course is 18-months long. Maryknoll lay missioner Kim Mom is now the director of the Wat Than workshop and presided over her first graduation (7/10/2000) since accepting her responsibilities there. Several government ministers and various friends came for the occasion.

    MMAF LogoThe Catholic Church in Cambodia:
    A Brief Maryknoll Perspective

    Cambodians were cut-off from the world for so long, and victimized by one of the most horrendous, genocidal governments. The Khmer Rouge were pushed out of governance in 1979, but the war continued until 1998, when the last remnants of the Khmer Rouge troops joined the government. Under the Khmer Rouge, and to a certain degree, in the years before and after the Khmer Rouge regime, every building block of society was targeted: family relations, community trust, health care, education from primary school through university level, and religion.

    In the last decade, and especially in the last five years, Cambodians are coming back into the world community. Perhaps more importantly, they are coming back into their own community. They are a very dedicated and loving people who want to help in the resurrection of Cambodia. Cambodians want education, good health care, and to be able to care for their families. They want to be able to trust. And they want peace. They want peace in their land, and they want peace in their hearts. There is a growing gap in Cambodia between the new rich and the always poor. Health care is available for some, but not for all. Schooling is available for children who can afford it, but not for those who can't, and the disabled, women and girls and the poor working class struggle daily against discrimination which is built into the culture.

    Maryknoll is committed to being in Cambodia, to struggle alongside the poor in Cambodia, to help them reach their goals for themselves, their society, and their country to help them strengthen the building blocks of Society which will strengthen peace in their land, and walk with them on the path to peace in their hearts.

    The Catholic Church in Cambodia

    Portuguese traders brought the Catholic faith to Cambodia in the 1500s. Later, persecutions in Japan and Indonesia led many Catholics to immigrate to Cambodia. When the French arrived in the 1800s they brought with them thousands of Vietnamese administrators, soldiers,craftsmen, etc.

    Many of the Vietnamese were Catholics, which made the Catholic Church in Cambodia primarily Vietnamese and French. Even new Western missioners arriving studied Vietnamese instead of Khmer. On April 17, 1975 when the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh there were less than 5,000 ethnic Khmer Catholics, five ethnic Khmer priests including two bishops, one of whom was ordained a bishop only three days before. The Khmer Rouge expelled, killed and forced vowed religious of all religions to cease practicing their religion and vocation.

    When French Paris Foreign Mission (MEP) Father (now Bishop) Emile DesTombes arrived back in the country in May 1990 (he was expelled with others of his community in May 1975 after the Khmer Rouge arrived) he agreed to work with the ethnic Khmer Catholic communities because he could speak the Khmer language. Maryknoll priests (who had arrived in 1989) continue to offer the sacraments on weekends for up to 18 different Vietnamese Catholic communities, most within two hours drive of Phnom Penh.

    Late in 1991 MEP Bishop Yves Ramousse returned to Phnom Penh. Bishop Ramousse was the French bishop of Phnom Penh expelled in 1975. From 1975 until 1993, Bishop Ramousse was appointed by Rome to care for the pastoral needs of Khmer Catholics all around the world including Cambodia. There are two dioceses (Phnom Penh and Kompong Cham) and one prelature (Battambang). As of 1999 there is only one ordained Cambodian priest and five major seminarians studying in Phnom Penh. Only a few sisters (either Khmer or ethnic Vietnamese Sisters of Providence who were born in Cambodia) are still working in the country.

    Each of the 18 ethnic Vietnamese Catholic communities has one acolyte or prayer leader who comes for training one day each month. Tom Dunleavy set up this acolyte system because there were no catechists to lead the people in prayer. The ethnic Khmer Catholic church served by the Paris Foreign Missioners and other orders has two sites in Phnom Penh, and in several other small communities scattered throughout the country. The church in Cambodia has been split down ethnic lines because of the history of Catholicism before 1975. In those days the church was seen as the "foreign church" dominated by French and Vietnamese Catholics. In addition, Khmer and Vietnamese peoples have a long history of ethnic hatred which makes it difficult for them to work together. In the past the Vietnamese Catholics controlled church activities because of their very active nature. Today the French priests have hoped to avoid repeating history by keeping the two groups separate, concentrating on building up the ethnic Khmer church. Maryknoll supports and works with the Khmer church as well as attempting to address the desire for the sacraments in the Vietnamese communities. In the past couple of years, the official Church in Cambodia has made a greater effort to bring the two communities together. In March 1994 The Holy See officially established diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Cambodia for the first time.

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    Cambodia Links to the Maryknoll Website

  • Maryknoll Sisters in Cambodia
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    Maryknoll Sisters - MedicalMore Maryknoll Links coming soon!

    Cambodia Links to Fr. Charlie Dittmeier's Website

  • Maryknoll and Cambodia
  • MMAF Group visit to Kompon Chan (July 14-16, 2000)
  • Daily Life in Phnom Penh
  • Krousar Thmey Deaf Schools
  • List of Cambodia Pages
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