It will take time before the Cambodian Church has the required number of Khmer priests it needs, a Hong Kong cardinal said recently to seminarians at the Saint Jean Marie Vianney major seminary in Phnom Penh. “The Catholic Church in Cambodia is going through a new beginning, and there are few priests who are Cambodian citizens. This means you need to show patience and consistency and be the foundation of a house and a strong house at that,” Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun from Hong Kong told them. Cardinal Zen was speaking to the seminarians during a formation class he was giving on eschatology – the part of theology dealing with death and judgment. The cardinal is on a May 31 to June 10 visit to Cambodia to give formation classes to seminarians. This year the major seminary only has two seminarians studying theology while another four are studying philosophy at the University of Phnom Penh. The Cambodian Church hopes that they will become priests and join the five existing Khmer priests working in the country. It is not so easy to get more priests in Cambodia, Cardinal Zen said. Modern lifestyles and materialism are making people think of themselves more. To be a priest is to follow the heart of God not man. And priests need to sacrifice themselves; to leave their families and live in God’s community, he added. Father Bob Piche, a Canadian priest and the seminary’s rector, says the institution is currently trying to show the potential priests how to offer spiritual guidance, how to be a mature person and to know the Church’s mission. One of the seminarians, Phan Borei, said his one goal is to be a priest and serve his “brothers and sisters.” He said the road to priesthood is not easy. “During difficult times I pray to God to give me more strength to continue. Hopefully I will be ordinated in the next three years,” the 31-year old said.
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