Today was a pretty relaxing day with a well-deserved sleep-in for all the pilgrims. As usual we started the day with a lovely breakfast provided by Brother Francis, a true gift to all the boys and demonstration of all the Marist characteristics. After this we were able to sit in a truly magic Mass given to use by Father Carlos. During the Mass the community was mourning the death of a young 19-year-old. The boy’s mother was in the Mass today and is the cleaner of the Church. Father Carlos gave us a good insight in his homily about repenting; he said that we’re all sinners, no one is perfect but that isn’t what we are here for. He told us that our purpose in life is to find true happiness and peace with what it is we do and ourselves. Within the Mass, I felt a very special feeling with all the songs and the different cultures. I also found it quite remarkable to see more kids than adults. No one was forcing these kids to go to Mass, they just wanted to be there and be a part of the community, which gave me a great sense of joy.
After Mass we took a little walk from the Marist pastoral centre to visit the villages and see where these kids, that we get to teach, live. It was a very confronting experience. First, we got to see the mother of the 19-year-old boy and learn more about her story. She’s living by herself and has two kids: one daughter who is studying in Battambang and another son who had to stop studying to work for the family. The daughter is coming to visit her once a week via a two-hour motorbike ride.
We walked further into the village and saw some familiar faces, including a family with 5 kids that latched onto us once they saw who we were, with the biggest smiles and so much joy it was incredible. While we were there, the parents told us the story of Patrick, a pilgrim from Sydney who, after school, came back to visit the family 9 times in 5 years. He also brought some of their land for them as most of these people were renting. But sadly, he passed away from complications.
The dad of the family showed us more of the village and the remarkable ways they grow food for, not only the family, but the community. It made me very happy to see the way they all got along and didn’t complain one bit when we were walking around their homes. It was the complete opposite – they were so grateful that we were there. I thought that was truly spectacular to see.
Finally I’d also like to thank the parents and staff for your comments, your words don’t go unnoticed.