St. Mary Mazzarello Community, Battambang, Cambodia, CMY Province
On the feast of St. Joseph, the husband of Mary
Today for the preparation for the Feast of Gratitude to La Madre we shared our reflection on the points of :
1. Seed of Faith sown in our soil yesterday
2. Challenges we encounter in living the faith in the community and the mission today
3. New ways for an evangelization tomorrow
1. Seed of Faith sown in our soil yesterday
Battambang is a city in the west of the country and surrounded by the vast farms and some hills. The people in this district are mostly farmers and construction workers. The community was opened to give answer to the extreme conditions of young women at risk suffering in many ways because of broken families, domestic violence, arranged marriages, trafficking of women, poor health and sanitation, lack of good educational institutions, slavery at work because of under age. Since our Charism is for the formation and education of the young women especially for the poor, the Bishop invited us to establish a community here. This community started in 7th Oct. 2002 by the presence of three FMA missionaries. At first for two years the FMA lived in a small rented house and accepted a small number of girls for a sewing and alphabetization course.
Later by the help of our benefactors, a property was bought and the “ Don Bosco Literacy and Skill Training Center” was built to cater for a 2 years course for 70 very poor girls mostly Buddhist since Cambodia is mainly a Buddhist Country. The Pol Pot regime persecuted the educated people and so the illiterate and poor were many. It was our choice to accept girls of very low education.
Our Charism calls us to evangelize through education and to educate through evangelical witness. We felt that could not teach a deep level of Catechism and other religious information but that we could educate the girls with evangelical heart. We felt the joy of being with them and seeing the improvement of their life.
As our Salesian educative method proposes, we planned a good informal and formal way of evangelization such as through daily good day and goodnight talks, the celebration of other religious and Salesians feasts preceded by a good preparation, and also value education for life.
We are happy to say that from these students there came out the teachers for sewing and the staff for our Production Center. At present the teachers and the staff are our Past pupils and they share their skill and generous service in our center. Some have been working with us already for more than 5 years and they are trustworthy. Four of them became also volunteer Catechists in the parish. It is the fruit of our educative system that was sown in the hearts of these young women who opened their heart to receive the gift of faith and give their best service for our center and needs of the parish. Every year during Easter Season there are three to five students who receive the baptism after a long period of preparation.
2. Challenges we encounter in living the faith in the community and the mission today
The challenges that we encounter today are:
“To be witness of our evangelical life among the Buddhist young girls - It is the first and basic way of evangelization. We need to be conscious of our commitment to be witness in carrying out of our tasks, activities and in the formation that we give them.
The unity in the plurality - because we come from different cultures we have to strengthen the unity in the plurality in our community.
Inculturation in inculturality – Since we are from different countries it is very challenging to enter into the local culture. i.e To propose our gospel mentality to Buddhist mentality
Evangelization – To make known the love of God and His providential Presence in their lives through personal accompaniment and informal and formal education.
Accompaniment – Our educative method of accompanying each individual young person to discover the plan of God in their life and developing their talents in their daily learning experience is a big challenge. Most of them are affected by broken family problems. Some of them are Catholics and we have encouraged those who show interest in religious life. As Cambodia is full of Buddhist culture and Catholics are a minority and in the past they were being oppressed, the basic knowledge of our Faith is very weak.
For this reason the Accompaniment to discover the Call of God to religious life is a big challenge. We need a strong faith and open mentality to approach the young person. Also from the side of young they need to grow more in the awareness of vocation is a grace thus encourages them to offer their life for the Kingdom. Most of the religious are missionaries and they are engaged in transmitting basic knowledge of faith. Most of the resources about Faith are in foreign languages. Although the missionaries and some local people are doing their best to translate these materials to local language it remains a big challenge to reach out to the level of people. Without these means our evangelization has little effect in the life of people and in the journey of discovering God’s message and Gospel Values.
3. New ways for an evangelization tomorrow- We see the needs of
 inculturation of the Gospel understanding the mentality of local culture, entering deeply in the categories of thought, symbol, values etc..
 as FMA , religious educator we need to strengthen our creativity to use wisely Mass Media so as to approach the young person in their way of searching for Jesus and His message
 To extend our mission throughout the country with our system of education and evangelization.