Volunteer Carmelite Sisters with Don Bosco
The new academic year (2016-2017) brings us also new volunteers. They are a force in our educative project: persons who are able to donate their time, knowledge and experience in a country like Cambodia. For Westerners it is a big challenge to come into a country with a very different language and culture that requires time and dedication. For Asian and African volunteers, the challenges is not much different, but Khmer Language is, probably, easier to pick. This new period of work in favor of children and youth in this Kep Province, brings us two religious women from the Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Guadalajara, Mexico: Sister Juanita Narvaez of Mexico and sister Milagros Ramírez of Perú. Two Latin American sisters full of love for the Mission and for sharing a message of Peace and Love to all mankind.
Sister María Elena Pacheco at the center with her Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mexico and two Dominican Sisters, studying Khmer Language at Don Bosco Hatrans in Kep Province: at her left sister Leticia, the general administrator of the Institute and at her right sister Milagros Ramírez from Peru and sister Juanita Narbaez from Mexico. At both sides sister Victoria from the Philippines (left) and sister Alejandrina from Chile, Dominican sisters.
The Cambodian Salesians of Don Bosco and the Carmelite Sisters of Mexico did an agreement that both sisters will support the work of Don Bosco Kep, especially at the side of the girls and young women, as well as the kindergarten, for a time of two years (October 2016 to October 2018). Sister María Elena Pacheco, the General Superior, brought the sisters in their new mission in Cambodia at the end of September, meeting Fr. Roel Soto, Fr. Eugene Xalxo, Fr. Samnang and Bishop Oliviere.
Sister Juanita led the Carmelite presence in Davao, Philippines for six years, where the sisters work with poor families, taking care of girls and young women. She created a tailoring workshop where women learn handicraft to sell at the market and support a little their poor economy. She was very much willing to face a new challenge for the sisters to come to a country with a millennial culture and a very different culture. Although she can speak Bisaya Language and understand a fair level of Tagalo, Khmer Language will be a golden medal when she will be able to hold a basic conversation by next January. The Carmelite Sisters of Guadalajara, Mexico, work mostly in Spanish countries like Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia (Philippines was their first excursion out of the Western Hemisphere). There are about 500 Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart in all those countries, but mostly in Mexico, a Catholic Institute founded by María Luisa Josefa del Santísimo Sacramento (in short, Mother Luisita) on February 2, 1921 in relation with hospitals and children of poor communities. Mother Luisita lived in a very difficult time of persecution, when Mexican president Elías Calles introduced anti-religious rules and forbade cults in all the country starting in 1926. Mother Luisita and her religious were forced to leave Mexico to California. Out of this historical fact, she is the founder of two religious institutes: the Mexican Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart, whose charisma is the “union of the Carmelo spirit with the apostolic action” and the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of California, with a more contemplative version of the founder.
It is not the first time that the Mexican Carmelites work at the side of the Salesians. They have apostolate with Don Bosco in Colombia and Ecuador. This Cambodian experience comes, precisely because Fr. Albeiro Rodas knew them in the Salesian Theologate of Bogotá in 2014. Needing some sisters who could assist the formation and care of girls and young women in Don Bosco Kep, as it is a both genders project, he wrote to the sisters general council in Tijuana. In 2015 sister María Elena Pacheco visited Cambodia, profiting a canonical visit to Davao to her sisters. From that visit, the request by Fr. Albeiro (known in Cambodia as Fr. Samnang), got a very positive answer, due to the fact that the sisters were contemplating the possibility to open a new apostolate in the Asian continent.
Sister Milagros Ramírez comes from Lima, Peru. She accepted the challenge to cross the Pacific Ocean in order to support the mission of Don Bosco in Kep Province with sister Juanita. At the moment they are facing the learning of the language – level 1 – with two other two missionary sisters, the Dominic Order from Spain, based in Sihanoukville: sister Victoria from Philippines and sister Alejandrina from Chile. It has been a good Khmer language school and the sharing with the children and young people of Don Bosco Hatrans in Kep Province.
Tags: Cambodian girls, Cambodian women, Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mexico, Empowering of women, Mgr. Olivier, Missionaries, Missionary women, Sister María Elena Pacheco, Volunteer sisters, volunteers