CAMBODIA Children's camp focuses on life of Saint Paul

Children sing a song about Saint Paul during the camp

September 2, 2009

PHNOM PENH (UCAN) -- The Church in Phnom Penh recently held a faith formation camp for children focusing on the life of Saint Paul the Apostle, during which participants also learned about communal living.

"Childhood is the time when one easily absorbs (lessons from) one's social environment," said Father Bruno Cosme, rector of the major seminary in Phnom Penh.

"If we do not pay enough attention to children, we miss a great opportunity to educate them on their faith and the right way to conduct their lives," said the Paris Foreign Missions priest, who was one of the organizers of the August 24-29 camp.

About 150 children, aged mostly between nine and 12, attended the stay-in program at the Don Bosco Vocational Training Center for girls. A committee which included 33 Catholic youths and four seminarians helped run the camp, which included lessons and reflections on the life of Saint Paul, talks on Catholic morality and hygiene, as well as group tasks and games.

"The main purpose of the camp was to teach them to be like Saint Paul who preached the Word of God, and to be good Catholics," said Father Cosme. "In addition, the children learned how to live together and how to cooperate with each other while performing tasks."

The camp, which had the theme, "Let's Go Together With Saint Paul to Meet Jesus," is the second of its kind. The first was in 2008 and had the theme, "The Word of God." About 130 children took part in that camp, said Father Bruno.

Saint Paul the Apostle was the major New Testament figure who preached the Gospel outside the Jewish community. He encountered many hardships and much persecution in his work.

Camp participants said that learning about Saint Paul's life helped them realize that sharing their faith with others is often a challenging task.

Ravy Sophearong, 12, said the camp taught him about "the mission of Saint Paul" and his preaching of the Word of God, "and discovered that it is not easy."

Youngsters praying together during the stay-in program

He said he could identify with the saint's experience, as he has also experienced criticism and rebukes when sharing his faith with people who do not understand it. He added that he liked the communal spirit of the camp, and learning and playing games together with other children.

Doung Reaksmey, 14, said he would be happy to be able bring the Good News to people around the world like Saint Paul, but like Sophearong, he realized that this would not be easy.

Organizers said the camp benefited them as well. Hom Chansophany, 22, said she acquired some leadership skills through volunteering to help out at the camp. She admitted that living with the children and making the program engaging for them was a challenging task.

Mung Ros, a seminarian, said the program included daily reflections on biblical passages, games related to the Gospel and lessons on morality.

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