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Catholic Vancouver July 5, 2018

Non-Catholics discovering community through Chinese Ministry 

By Agnieszka Ruck

Father Paul Chu speaks in a packed hall during one of his first Chinese Ministry events in 2016. (Submitted photo)

This is the first article in a mini-series on Chinese Ministry.

Most of the Lower Mainland’s large Chinese community is not Catholic, but Father Paul Chu accepts that as an invitation and a challenge.

“We need to take care of them, to evangelize them. They are here and they have a chance to learn about God,” said Father Chu.

Most Chinese Catholics are from Hong Kong; only a handful are from mainland China, and even fewer from other Asian countries. That leaves Father Chu, head of the archdiocese’s new Chinese Ministry, with a two-fold mission: to build community for Catholics, and to reach out to those who don't go to church.

“When they first come here, mostly they feel isolated.” So, since he launched the ministry in the fall of 2016, Father Chu has tried to encourage local Chinese people to get together over food, activities, and prayer events.

So far, it’s been received well. Mass on Chinese New Year attracted at least 200 people, and his biggest event, a talk by two formerly imprisoned Chinese priests, drew 300.

Meanwhile, he’s noticed a trend toward non-Catholic Chinese parents sending their children to faith-based schools.

“In Hong Kong, there are a lot of Catholic schools, but only one or two per cent of students are Catholic,” he said. “They trust that the Church runs good schools,” and now newcomers to B.C. are increasingly interested in sending their children to Catholic schools like St. Francis Xavier.

Father Chu, also the pastor at Precious Blood Parish, said his ministry (still in its infancy) supplements the efforts of six parishes already serving Chinese Catholics, some for decades.

It’s a challenge to be sure. Newcomers from mainland China are a large group and “difficult to catch because they don’t have a strong sense of need of church.”

With a limited number of volunteers and scattered Chinese communities, it’s all he can do to host events and encourage anyone – with a faith or not – to come.

“That’s something we always put in mind: this large group of people is landing in Canada and how can we help them know about God?”

Read more on how parishes are reaching out to people of Chinese origin here.