Phnom Penh: The congregation of the Sisters of the Rosary was established in 1832 in France. Unfortunately the group has now been disbanded this year, 2017. Sr. Anne Marie Gallice, the person in charge of the group in Cambodia said: “Because our group has only old people in France, there were no youth willing to take the veil in our group and so the Mother House in Rome has asked us to discontinue activities here in Cambodia. At present in France almost all the nuns are old and the youngest of them is me who is 69 years old and another nun. There are even nuns much older than me.”
The congregation of the Sisters of the Rosary had carried out pastoral missions in Asia and Africa. The group was set up in Cambodia in 1993 and it used to have missions in the refugee camps on the Cambodia-Thailand border for a number of years with Sr. Zilbel Mason who had performed humanitarian works.
Sr. Anne Marie recounted that the mission of the congregation in each country was to use their own skills and capacities in order to serve God and the local Church. Those pastoral activities included education on the essence of the Catholic faith, helping out the churches here and other humanitarian works like helping poor families and helping children in their studies and so on.
In Cambodia, the congregation of the Sisters of the Rosary comprises three members including Srs. Anne Marie Gallice, Zilbet Mason, a French national and Khem Sokha, the youngest Cambodian national. Sr. Anne Marie said that the news about disbanding the group, was very painful for her. The nun said in a sad voice: “It’s really painful, especially for Sr. Khem Sokha. It’s like abandoning a child for me. However what we are praying every morning at Mass and remembering the story of Abraham. God had called him at the age of 100 and he answered with a “yes”. I now have to say yes too. What I know is that God also loves me and Sokha. ”
Sr. Anne Marie left Cambodia on 3rd October 2017, while Sr. Zilbet Mason has now been hospitalized with cancer in France. Sr. Khem Sokha will leave the house of the congregation of the Sisters of the Rosary and will promote vocations among a group from South Korea based in Pursat province as of 4th October 2017.
Upon arriving in France, Sr. Anne Marie will be tasked with taking responsibility for the congregation of the Sisters of the Rosary among the old nuns where some of them are very ill. According to the nun, “Before I go to the house I am looking forwards to helping the nuns who have been complaining about their pains. However, every day I pray, asking God to give strength to the sisters in Cambodia and Africa.”
In Cambodia, the congregation of the Sisters of the Rosary had established an organization of neophytes in order to assist poor families so that their children will receive studies at state-run schools. The organization is also helping the parishes in the Diocese of Phnom Penn in catechetical programmes and compiling catechetical books for catechumens. The organization even accommodates female youth by helping in their studies who are from high schools and universities. Its presence of over 20 years in Cambodia has made it well known to most of the Catholics. Sr. Zilbet had worked along with Fr. François Ponchaud, the former director of the center for Catechetical programmes in Cambodia.
The nun said that the organization of neophytes is still continuing its mission because the organization has a person in charge along with other staff. The nun added that there is only one person to help the organization with financial contribution. However, accommodating the youth will be suspended from next year, while other works are due to be stopped this year.
Sr. Khem Sokha, the new nun of more than two years decided to seek vocations for religious life. The nun said: “I feel the group is like my own family. I do not know clearly why I go or stay so that I can learn to understand God’s call for me to be here or not.”
“I have to be joyful and hopeful and I even have to trust God even though God did not shut down the congregation, He did not end my vocation no matter where He takes me; I answer a yes and follow it. Dear brothers and sisters please pray for me,” the nun concluded.