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UNION OF SISTERS OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

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Sisters from Cambodia and Thailand meet in Bangkok

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26/04/2018

This gathering, a first for both communities, was held in Bangkok, Thailand, from February 17 -21 2018. Thailand and Cambodia are neighbouring countries in South East Asia and there the light of Nano’s Flame shines today. The Presentation community in Thailand is a more established community, while in Cambodia, collaborating with the Jesuit Service Cambodia, developments are in their infancy stage. 

                                                                                                                                     Desire

Sisters Jancy, Petra, Chitra, Beth and Bina

One of the shared aspects of being on mission in that part of the world is not having a network of Presentation Sisters to visit. It had long been a desire to find an appropriate time to visit Presentation Sisters in Fang. So when the Community in Cambodia learnt that the Fang Community would travel to attend a meeting concerning the SDG’s in Bangkok, in February, they seized the moment - Carpe Diem!

Poipet-Bangkok

On February 17th, having celebrated Mass at a very early hour, Sisters Preethi Chacko, Lizzy Mathew and Anne Lyons set out on the hour-long journey to Poipet, the border town of Cambodia and Thailand. After almost 18 months in Cambodia, they were finally going to meet their Presentation Sisters in Thailand.  There was much excitement and looking forward to this encounter and the historic opportunity for both communities to meet and to share their experiences of life and mission in South East Asia.

Setting out that morning, little did they know what trials and difficulties that awaited them at the border crossing! The agreed plan was to travel by taxi to Poipet, get their Visa stamped at the border, and then cross over into Thailand.

On arrival at the Thai border gate, they would be met by Mr. Chat (a Thai, who works as the Director of Construction at Xavier Jesuit School). He would facilitate the Sisters in getting their SIM Card for phones, guide them to the right bus for Bangkok and as they say in Khmer- Choop Haey...Done and Dusted!!  

Crossing Over

Poipet is the crossing point for many a Khmer person, who because of lack of proper job opportunities leave their families in Cambodia and travel to Thailand for work.  The Sisters had forgotten that is was Chinese New Year, so on arrival took their place in the queue of teeming masses of people; all moving at the pace of a sedated snail to the awaiting booths where passports are stamped and visas granted. 

However, they were not so fortunate. While Sr Anne received her visa, both Sisters Lizzy and Preethi, because of their nationality, were denied a visa and the right to travel by road to Thailand!  Sr Anne was already separated from them in the queue, and almost through to the other side, when she became aware that they had a real dilemma.  They wondered what to do? There was only one option: they return to Sisophon, travel to Siem Reap, get a flight to Bangkok, and meantime, Sr Anne would travel onwards by road.  Fortunately, they had a Korean Jesuit with them, and he was most helpful.

Encounter

After almost 5 hours by road, Sr Anne arrived to Bangkok.  It was a very special moment to finally

Sisters Petra, Preethi, Anne and Lizzy

meet the Fang Community. Having shared a meal together, Sisters Chitra Varghese and Anne returned to the airport to await the arrival of Lizzy and Preethi!  There they experienced further delays! But finally at 10p.m. they came through!  Watching from a distance, Anne’s heart was moved as she watched them embrace. It struck her that it had a ring of the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. The joy of the encounter was palpable.  The remainder of the community awaited them at the Sacred Heart Sisters convent and after recounting the escapades of the day, they all retired for a well-earned sleep. Suffice to say that this was day of many learnings for them!

Sunday morning they participated at their first Thai Mass.  They couldn’t help but notice some similarities with Khmer words.  However, Thai language is tonal and the music and singing very beautiful.   After Mass, Sr. Petra (Presentation Sisters, Perth), who is herself a Thai, came to meet with them, bearing many gifts. She shared her ministry of Teaching English in Thailand.  They enjoyed a beautiful meal generously hosted by her!  Later that evening they gathered and together prepared a simple meal.

Shared Stories

Monday was sightseeing day: The Palace and the Emerald Temple. They agreed to allow some part of their time together to reflect and to share on their individual experience of life and mission. This was a very sacred and special time. There was laughter and tears as they each listened to the heart of the other, the joys and struggles of living in a new country and a new mission. What was so evident was the immediacy of their sharing – a consequence of their common shared spirit and charism.  This was indeed holy ground.

Goodbyes

Tuesday February 21st came all too quickly for each of the Sisters. As they said their goodbyes, they agreed to come together once more before the end of this Tercentenary Year, to mark the life of the woman whose vision informs their living and being Presentation Sisters in South East Asia.

Submitted by: Sr Anne Lyons, PBVM

 

 

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