Many conversions are taking place in Shanghai, China, in part thanks to the encouragement of Bible reading and youth outreach programs. One convert’s story began in a classroom encounter with Catholicism and led to the conversion of another young man he met while reading the Bible at McDonald’s.
While most Catholics in China are born to Catholic parents, many of the nearly 300,000 Catholics in Shanghai are converts, the United Bible Societies China Partnership reports.
One convert, 27-year-old Shen Cheng, had little exposure to the Catholic faith as a youth. He became interested in Catholicism when one of his professors introduced him to a book by American legal scholar Harold J. Berman. The book so interested Cheng in Catholicism that he bought a Catholic Bible.
Exploring Scripture convinced him to convert to Catholicism. He calls the Bible his “daily bread,” essential to his soul’s well-being.
Shen would often read the Bible wherever he went. At one McDonald’s restaurant he frequented he would read the Bible with a crucifix in front of him.
Lu Xiaochen, now 25, was working at the same restaurant part-time during his university vacation. He became curious after seeing Shen reading the Bible each day and began a conversation with him.
Shen shared his faith with Lu. According to United Bible Societies, Shen’s sincerity in answering questions and his love for God made a huge impression on Lu who then decided to be baptized.
Lu was so serious about his new faith that he went against doctors’ advice and underwent his baptism ceremony the same day he was scheduled for a hospital surgery. He returned to the hospital just before his operation.
He said he was sustained by 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.”
Shen, who started a Catholic newsletter as a university undergraduate, now heads the distribution arm of the Guangqi Research and Publication Center in the Diocese of Shanghai. He is fervent about outreach, especially to youth, and attends a weekly young adult Bible study at his church.
Father Anthony Chen, director of the Guangqi Research Center, told United Bible Societies that the diocese has had a youth outreach program for several years. It has organized youth and children camps during school holidays for both believers and non-believers.
“These camps have been very well-received by the public,” he said.
The Diocese of Shanghai is encouraging Catholics to read their Bibles more regularly through a campaign to promote daily reading. The diocese also encourages 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,” Fr. Chen reported.