Several parishes in Shenzhen, southern China, are welcoming foreign athletes for the Summer Universiade starting August 12.
Two priests and two nuns from Beijing diocese are also serving at the Catholic worshipping room at the Religious Service Center in the Universiade Village, where English Masses are being celebrated every day.
The 26th Summer Universiade, which runs until August 23, is the most prestigious sporting event for university athletes and is organized by the International University Sports Federation.
More than 12,000 athletes and officials from 152 “delegations” from around the world are due to take part. According to a local parish website, it is anticipated that nearly half the 8,000 athletes are Catholics.
In the Universiade Village in Longgang district, the Religious Service Center has four activity rooms for Buddhists, Catholics, Muslims and Protestants respectively, and several other rooms for meditation and prayers to be shared by believers of other faiths.
There are 14 religious personnel from the four religions among the 107 full-time workers at the center, which is open 24 hours a day.
Father Paul Liu Zhentian of Beijing, who served at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, said he and another priest are taking turns performing Masses in English and serving those “who want to pray, receive Sacraments or seek pastoral care.”
A couple of Catholic churches in Shenzhen city will also welcome foreign visitors during the games.
To serve foreign Catholics, on Sundays, in addition to the 2pm English Mass at St. Anthony’s Church in Futian district, the Christ the King Church in Bao’an district has temporarily changed its 3pm Chinese Mass to an English one.
The Christ the King Church has also arranged volunteers at the church to help those in need of assistance, said Father Joseph Hu Qinghua.
Tan Yandu, a young Catholic Universiade volunteer, said he hopes to perform good service “as a witness for the Gospel.”
Some other parishioners who have to work on weekdays said they will help at weekends. They said they hoped the local Church could grasp this evangelization opportunity by holding many activities for the public good.