Catholics in Shanghai

Lu (left) and Shen (right)
Chinese Catholics – Lu (left) & Shen (right). Photo:UBSCP/Jacqueline Ho.

SHANGHAI — Shen Cheng a 27 year-old, heads the distribution arm of the Guangqi Research Center and Publication, Shanghai Catholic Diocese. Shen is not new to publications; when he was still a university undergraduate, he started a Catholic newsletter together with his friends, featuring selected scriptural portions in every installment. He is fervent about outreach, particularly to the youths, and is zealous about studying the Bible with young adults on a weekly basis in his church. Yet Shen himself had little exposure to the Catholic Faith when he was a youth. It was not until his university days, when one of his professors introduced a book by Harold J Berman  which got him so interested in Catholism that he bought himself a Catholic Bible. It was through the exploration of the Bible that convicted him to become a Catholic. The Bible to him is his “daily bread”, a commodity indispensable for the wellbeing of his soul.

Shen’s habit of reading the Bible wherever he goes and whenever he could find time, led us to the story of Lu Xiaochen.  During his last university vacation, Lu (age 25) decided to take on a part-time job at MacDonald’s in order to earn some extra cash. He became curious when he saw Shen sitting alone, day after day, reading a big book with a crucifix in front of him. His curiosity got the better of him one day so he initiated a conversation with Shen. That was how Shen got a chance to share with Lu his faith. Shen’s sincerity in answering all of Lu’s questions, and his love for God made a huge impression on the younger man. As the days progressed, a mentor-disciple relationship was forged at the most unlike place, MacDonald’s.  But Shen has never forced his faith on Lu. When Lu decided to be baptized as a Catholic, no one had doubts about Lu’s seriousness with his new-found faith. In fact, on the day of his baptism, he was warded in the hospital for a scheduled surgery. Against the doctors’ advice, Lu left the hospital that morning for his baptism ceremony and returned just in time for his scheduled operation. What sustained him was the verse Philippians 3:8 “Yes, I will go further: because of the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, I count everything else as loss. For him I have accepted the loss of all other things, and look on them all as filth if only I can gain Christ” (New Jerusalem).

Shen and Lu’s coming-to-faith testimonies are a growing phenomenon in China. Most Catholic believers are “born into the faith”; the children are Catholics because their parents are Catholics. However, in Shanghai, many Catholics are “first generation Catholics” adding to the municipal’s total of close to 300,000 Catholic believers presently. One main reason, as explained by Father Anthony Chen (director of Guangqi Research Center and Publication) is that “the Shanghai Catholic Diocese has a youth outreach program. For a few years running, it has been organizing youth/children camps during school holidays for both believers and non-believers. These camps have been very well-received by the public.”

Another area the Shanghai Catholic Diocese is encouraging their congregation members to do is to read their Bibles more regularly. It launched a “read and study the Bible daily” campaign. They also encourage congregational reading of scripture passages before and after Mass. “Unfortunately, not all the believers in China own a Bible, especially the rural folks who are too poor to own one. That’s why we are so thankful for the continual support of the United Bible Societies to the poorer Chinese Catholics,” added Father Chen with a smile.

Written by Pamela Choo & Jacqueline Ho
for United Bible Societies, China Partnership