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Converts who come at a cost

China’s lay catechists pay their own way

Converts who come at a cost
A lay catechist team in mainland China reporter, Xi’an

April 29, 2011

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Four downtown parishes in Xi’an city, capital of central Shaanxi province, baptized more than 150 new Catholics over the Easter period, thanks to the evangelistic efforts of lay catechists. In Xi’an and in neighboring Baoji, Xianyang and Xingping cities, there are some 50 full-time catechists, who go out to visit the poor and sick. Most of these catechists come from rural areas. Their devout and vigorous Christian life has attracted many non-believers to the Church. Father John Su Shengyi of Sanyuan diocese often invites lay catechist teams from other dioceses to evangelize in the area he serves. These active catechists evangelize through their writings, sermons and charity work in one village after another. “I admire their dedication, spirit and charitable actions, which have fostered the Church’s evangelization enormously,” the priest noted. However, the catechists mostly work for the Church at their own expense. They save money on food and other expenses to give financial assistance to the needy. Since they also have to support their own families, their financial plight has gradually become a concern of the Church and Catholics. Zhang Ruohan, a retired civil servant who serves in the mountainous area near Baoji, uses his pension to back his evangelistic work. “Catechists who have no income may face difficulties serving in remote areas over a long period of time, particularly with the rate of inflation these days,” he noted. Wang Enshi, a poor man from Zhouzhi diocese, helps people in his parish to carry water and deliver newspapers. Wang is eager to go out to spread the Gospel and visit the sick, but is deeply concerned that he can hardly afford traveling expenses or to give money to the poor. “These catechists leave their homes and spare no effort on evangelization. Some of them even travel across the country throughout the year, thus the Church should take care of them,” Father Wang of Xi’an diocese said. Maria Wang, a new Catholic in Xi’an, knows just how much catechists have contributed in spreading the Gospel. She hopes local Church-run charitable organizations can pay more attention to catechists and give some support to their families so that they can go about their evangelistic work more wholeheartedly. There are around 10 Catholic charitable organizations in China that focus on social charity and humanistic work, as well as on disaster and emergency relief. Some laypeople hope they can also help support volunteer catechists’ family and evangelization expenses. Related reports China aid workers hone their skills Chinese wives help the weakest for Lent Evangelizing through medical service CH14022
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