The Church delegation from China pose for a photo at the St Francis Xavier Major Seminary. Also in the photo are Fr Paul Tong (centre, with stick) and Belgian Fr Jeroom Heyndrickx (second row, third from right).

Some Catholics from China visited Singapore in May to learn more about the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), according to a report by Hai Sing Pao.

The 19-member delegation comprised priests, nuns and laypeople from Hengshui, Liaoning and Beijing dioceses. They were in Singapore for 10 days from May 7 to attend workshops at the St Francis Xavier Major Seminary.

These were jointly organised by the Singapore archdiocese’s Mandarin RCIA team and the Scheut Missions Verbiest Institute in Taipei. Also present were two Scheut Missions priests based in Taiwan including Belgian Fr Jeroom Heyndrickx, who was one of the presenters.

Other presenters from Singapore included Frs Paul Tong and Henry Siew, Canossian Sr Clare Tan and laypeople.

The visitors learnt about the approach and spirit behind the RCIA, the structure and training of the RCIA team and course content among other topics.

The Singapore hosts also shared how they promote the RCIA to spread the Gospel message. Both sides also exchanged pointers on their ministries and pastoral experiences.

During their stay, the Chinese delegation visited four parishes and interacted with Mandarin-speaking Catholics.

The Chinese guests say they benefited from the exchange.

Writing to CatholicNews in Mandarin via email, Fr Matthew Gong said he could feel the passion and spirit of service within the Singapore Church, which has spurred him to want to do more for the Chinese Church.

The priest from Yichang diocese in Hubei who does mostly liaison work for the Verbiest Institute nowadays, said he is “determined” to “promote the RCIA ... while taking into consideration China’s situation”. He added that he plans to “organise exchanges and discussions” and to adapt the knowledge he has gained for the China Church.

Fr Gong also praised Singaporean Catholics’ involvement in RCIA. He said this provides a “new direction for the Chinese Church” where lay involvement becomes more crucial in the face of declining religious vocations.

His visit also taught him that the spirit of service and determination is important in meeting people’s pastoral needs, he said.

The trip to Singapore was a life-changing experience for Ms Ding Hong Ru from Liaoning diocese.

Ms Ding, who attended an RCIA session at the Church of St Michael, said she was impressed at the sincerity with which one of the catechists shared with participants.

On her way back to China, she told a priest from her diocese, who was travelling with her, that she would like to be an RCIA catechist.

Ms Ding, a parish secretary who also works with youth groups said she has been trying to “find her place and ministry within the Church” and the Singapore trip helped her discover her calling.

She said she hopes to start as a RCIA sponsor. Meanwhile, she is reading a book Fr Siew had given to her, and is determined to study the Bible daily while re-learning her catechism.

The RCIA experience in Singapore is something China could learn from, she said. A good RCIA team can draw more people into the Church and into the faith, she added.

By Darren Boon
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