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Marketing helps Nanjing parish camp attract more children

Around 150 young Catholics and others attend weeklong summer camp

Marketing helps Nanjing parish camp attract more children

The children get a big welcome at the beginning of the summer camp run by the Immaculate Conception Cathedral Parish. (Photo supplied) reporter, Nanjing

August 22, 2016

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A change in strategy and marketing has led to more children attending a summer camp run by the Immaculate Conception Cathedral Parish in Nanjing, eastern China.

The camp ran from Aug. 7-14 and 150 children aged three to 16 attended — a 30 percent increase on last year.

The parish used to hold "catechism classes" in the summer for Catholic children but changed the name to "summer camp" and expanded the invitation to include others.

The parish also sent out 500 promotional pamphlets to attract more people.

"We also encouraged our parishioners to share the news through social media so that their non-Catholic friends would find out about it," said Mai Zi, camp leader. "The program focused on Catholic elements and having a fun one-week camp. It won approval from parents and parishioners."

"This is to open the church and draw those who are not Catholics to come to the church through various channels," said Father Gao Yuan, the parish priest who ministers to 5,000 Catholics. At the concluding Mass on Aug. 14, two children were baptized and 14 more received their First Holy Communion.

"We also ensured that the 40 teachers and seminarians prepared their lessons ahead of time in order to deliver good quality lectures," explained Mai Zi. "We hope that those attending will get a good feeling about the Catholic Church. This is evangelization."

In order to get the children orientated, the first lecture introduced the building and the setting inside the church. The rest of the program included Biblical story telling, liturgy and prayers.

There were also Catholic-themed handicrafts, such as creating crosses and rosary beads, drawing pictures of Biblical stories, making animals out of Play Doh and squeezing grapes to make juice. The kids enjoyed physical exercise and got extra help with their schoolwork as well.

Many parents expressed gratitude to the parish, which is ready to provide supplementary classes for interested parents, and individual tutoring to prepare Catholic children for their First Holy Communion or baptism.

A Catholic mother brought her son to the camp to help him to "make friends who share similar values."

Her 12-year-old son had a grand time, she said.

A mother who is not a Catholic also appreciated the "thoughtfulness of the program and the care of the teachers," noting that her daughter enjoyed her time very much.



A child kisses the crucifix during a summer camp prayer meeting. (Photo supplied)

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