We have been living in difficult and uncertain times for most of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This unprecedented situation has affected many people, including some reading this. At Catholic Mission, during our fortnightly zoom Masses, we have kept you in our prayers, praying for your health, safety and security. Like everyone, we had hopes that by now we would have been back celebrating Mass with our fellow parishioners within our faith community. Sadly at the time of writing this, our challenges remain, rather than decrease.
Catholic Mission’s annual appeal held on Mission Sunday in our diocese, is once again upon us and I am writing this asking for your support if you are able to do so.
The focus country for 2020 is Cambodia and the main story is centred upon the Arrupe Centre in Battambang, north-west Cambodia. The Centre was established by Bishop Enrique ‘Kike” Figaredo Alvargonzalez in 2001 (affectionately known as “the Bishop of wheelchairs”). Over that past twenty years the centre has evolved from a short-term rehabilitation centre to a full time home for children with a disability, whether from landmine accidents or illness such as polio. It is here that Chen was offered opportunities for rehabilitation and vocational training. At the age of 16, Chen lost both of his legs in a landmine accident. Chen had started to lose hope for his future when Bishop Kike met him.
Now 26 years old, Chen has finished high school – something he originally feared would never happen. Thanks to the Arrupe Centre, he is currently studying IT programming at university, while working at the La Paloma textile centre, alongside many other men and women living with a disability.
Landmine accidents are still prevalent today in Cambodia, with an estimated 110 million landmines remaining in the ground today, a cruel reminder of the country’s troubled past of the tumultuous years of the Khmer Rouge.
Bishop Kike says, “We are here for the common good; to be a more inclusive society and to bring also the joy of life everywhere….we look with a positive vision and, I would say, with hope and joy and happiness”. The Arrupe Centre strives to show the love of God through caring for and empowering those in need.
The Arrupe Centre Outreach Program provides resources for families like Chen’s, offering support in practical ways like the provision of rice, micro-loans, repairs to homes and scholarships for siblings.
Chen says the Arrupe Centre has given him the chance to dream again. He says, “it is like I have a new life”.
There are many ways to support Catholic Mission during October, even as social distancing rules throw up many challenges.
Donations can be made online at https://www.catholicmission.org.au
Texting ‘GIVE’ to a dedicated phone number 0488 854 436 and follow the prompts
Mail to Catholic Mission, P.O. Box 178, Wendouree. 3355.
More stories can also be viewed at https://www.catholicmission.org.au
Resources for parishes can be accessed here.
Thank you for your prayers for the work of mission and ongoing support
Sue Searls, Ballarat Diocesan Director