St. John’s Church, Siem Reap

I went to Siem Reap last weekend with my friend, Coco. Before we went there (well, more like a couple of months or so before the trip), I’ve been researching on local churches and Mass times. I’ve never missed Mass before, and I really didn’t want to miss Mass just because I didn’t know a thing about the city, so with the help of Google, I found a church, which was supposedly really near our hotel. My friend and I planned to walk to the Church after our day tour. We ended up being brought there by our tour guide, so we were able to attend mass without anything going amiss.

St. John’s Church is a small parish, built like a large nipa hut (like a hut on stilts). It was early in the evening and the lights all throughout Siem Reap were out, so we weren’t able to take proper pictures. Here’s the best picture that we have of it (my friend took it after the lights went on):

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There is a large green sign at the gates of the Church, indicating that it is a Catholic Church. There is also ample space for parking in front of the Church, and to the right of the parking area, there is a religious store. A little behind the small building that contains the religious store, there’s a grotto with a statue of Mother Mary and Jesus.

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Since the Church is built similarly to a nipa hut, a flight of stairs leads to the second floor, where the Mass is held. Before entering the Church, we had to remove our shoes. There were shoe racks at the entrance of the hall. Inside the hall, there were chairs along the far left and right, and straw mats were laid out for seating at the center. A space, which served as the aisle, was left bare between the matted areas. Aside from the people seated on the chairs, most parishioners heard mass sitting on the mats.

There was a blackout in Siem Reap at that time, so the Mass was held in almost complete darkness, except for a line of candles along the aisle and on the altar. Soft guitar music was played as the choir (and the rest of us) sang to the Mass songs. It felt really solemn when the lights were out, and the candle flames were pulsing gently in the darkness. It reminded of taize, which I used to attend in Korea.

I actually noticed all the details of the Church when the lights went on:

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A platform for the altar is at the very front, with a crucifix right above it. With the tabernacle to its left and a statue of Mary and Jesus to the right. Since the Christmas season has barely ended at that time, there were still decorations around the Church. There was a belen to the left, beside the tabernacle. There was also a pair of lanterns hanging above us, along with lines of banderitas (I honestly don’t know how to translate this!). Along the walls, above the windows are wooden scenes of the Way of the Cross.

Around sixteen priests were in attendance during the Mass! They were the parish’s visitors from Italy. And I have actually never seen that many priests celebrating Mass at a single time. (The most I’ve seen before that was probably eight to ten.)

There are some really cool finds in the store, such as wooden sculptures of local renditions of Mary and Jesus. .

MORE INFORMATION:

For mass schedules, location, contact information, (better pictures!), and other information on the Church (and other Catholic Churches in Siem Reap): http://siemreapcatholic.wordpress.com/

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