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East Anglian celebration of Cambodian tradition

Anyone walking past Sacred Heart Catholic Church Hall in North Walsham on the evening of Friday September 30 might have wondered at the 60+ pairs of shoes outside the door. Katie Maidment reports.

It was all part of what has become an annual event in Sacred Heart Parish: the celebration of the Cambodian ‘Feast of Ancestors’ in which those who have died are remembered, honoured and prayed for in a service that combines Christian and Buddhist tradition. The celebration, now in its fifth year, is a wonderful opportunity to engage with the primary basis of our Cambodia twinning, namely friendship and prayer.

Catholics from Ely, Cambridge, Poringland and Yarmouth joined Sacred Heart parishioners for the Mass which was led by Fr Philip Shryane (Gorleston) together with Fr Mark Hackeson (Bury St Edmunds), Fr John Warrington (Ipswich) and Fr James Walsh, parish priest of Sacred Heart.

As in Cambodia, the names or pictures of departed family and friends were displayed, incense was offered in their memory and gifts of food were brought for sharing and distribution to the needy.

Many of those who attended wore white and removed their shoes (both marks of respect in Cambodia), the flowers and music were Khmer-style and the young people who took a central role in the ceremony was a reminder that Cambodia is still in effect a ‘young’ country with 75% of the population under 35 years old. The service was described as “beautiful", "so moving” and “really peaceful”. Afterwards, all shared food and community time together – very much in the spirit of the celebration that takes place in Cambodia during this special time.

The next major twinning occasion in Sacred Heart Parish takes place in Aylsham at 7pm on Friday April 28 to which all are welcome.

Pictured above are young people from Sacred Heart Parish who took a central role in the Mass. Picture by Stella Fox.