Apostolic Vicariate of Phnom PenhDaily News

Cambodian Catholics join 50th anniversary celebration of Church in Vietnam

On the 1st January 2020, Frs. Chatsirey Roeung and David Journault , including more than 60 Catholics from Phnom Penh joined in the celebrations commemorate the 50th anniversary of establishing the Church of Mother Mary Russey Koe in Suoy Kat village in Suong Loc diocese, Vietnam. The Holy Mass was presided over by Fr. Giuse Dinh Duc Dao and concelebrated by nearly 20 priests with about 2,000 Catholics participating.

Russey Keo Church in Vietnam was an ageing one that was once located in the middle of Samaki Village in the current Phnom Penh capital. Thanks to the pioneering work of preaching the Good News of Jesus by the Paris Foreign Missions Society Missionaries (MEP), the majority Vietnamese Church in the area was established in 1862 during the time of Jean-Claude Miche (1850 –1869). Priests and the faithful had planted more bamboo of various colours around the church.

At that time, many MEP priests took charge of the Church and the number of faithful reached 10,000. In 1970, Vietnamese nationals were forced to leave the land where they once lived for hundreds of years. They had abandoned the graves of their ancestors and prepared themselves to move to Vietnam. The migration was a long drawn process. From June to August 1979, they had to gather in three main places for worship –20,000 parishioners at the then Russey Keo Church; 13,000 at the then-Catholic junior seminary in Phsar Toich in the capital and 16,000 at the then- Providence of Portieux Sisters (pp). Then they moved to Vietnam. The last dispatch in September, some 300 Catholics were sent along the Mekong River to Trà Nóc -Cần Thơ and và Chợ Mới-An Giang.

Fr. Gioakim Hồ Quang Luật gathered about 200 Catholics from Russey Keo Church and from other areas to live near Chứa Chan area in Suong Loc diocese. The first Suoy Kat Church was established under the name “Russey Keo” to renew the life of the Church in Cambodia. Additionally, each family had to struggle to settle down there. Fr. Gioakim had brought them to build the Church that was roofed with the blue tent for celebrating Christmas mass in 1970.

The second church was built with the wooden structure in 1972 by the villagers and youths. Gradually, the Church had established a parish pastoral committee. Since 1993, this committee was recognized by the diocese. Fr. Gioakim took care of and instructed the faithful who were experiencing economic difficulties. However, the church had encouraged them. Though in poor health, in 2002, the priest was bold enough to build a new building, which is the current church. Later, he retired.

A new priest Fr. Ngô Văn Bao who took over the pastoral mission urged the faithful to join hands to complete the construction of the new church. The church was inaugurated on 15th July 2004. The priest had initiated many Pastoral activities in response to the spiritual and social needs for children and the poor. In 2013, the Church marked the 150th anniversary of its establishment in the Cambodian soil until it settled down in Vietnam. Dong Thành phong who is the new person in charge has cooperated with the faithful to build a care-giving centre [for old people]. The building was inaugurated in 15th October 2017. At present, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the patron of the then-Russey Keo Church has nearly 8,000 Catholics in Suoy Kat village, in Suong Loc district, Vietnam.