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Bringing faith to the campus

Having young students working on a common goal towards spirituality is the main purpose of the Catholic Society of the University of Macau. So says President Eunice Vong on the reason she revived the group after several years of inactivity. Eucharistic celebrations, spiritual retreats and hiking in Coloane Island are some activities on the wish list.

Reactivated August last year, the Catholic Society of the University of Macau (CATSO) aims to bring young people together to provide a channel for sharing life on the spiritual level. “We want to bring together students who share the same values. We welcome all UMAC [University of Macau] students, whether they are Catholics or non-Catholics,” CATSO President Eunice Vong, 21, told O Clarim, a trilingual (Portuguese-English-Chinese) Macau Catholic weekly newspaper.

The Catholic Society has now about 15 active members, mostly from Macau, but also from Hong Kong. Total number is 31, including two UMAC staff. “We have special activities in UMAC, such as one Mass organized so far, the Stations of the Cross held during Lent, a closing Mass celebration for the end of the academic year,” she described.

CATSO members face a lot of challenges, especially, because young people often have other priorities in mind. President Vong shared with us a few aspects that justify a certain type of youngsters’ alienation towards religion. “It is hard to attract new participants. We stick posters everywhere in the University, and we have a Facebook page and a long contact list.”

“Generally speaking, there are other societies in UMAC, and students join those they feel more identified with. I think the youth in Macau don’t like to go deep in religion, since they would like to have fun, a part-time job, study and meet friends. That’s why they don’t go to church,” she justified.

“Perhaps five or ten percent of UMAC students are Catholic, while others are non-Catholic. Therefore, there are not many potential members. It’s really a challenge,” Ms Vong stated. She is in the fourth year of her bachelor’s degree in Professional Accountancy at UMAC.


Sense of belonging

CATSO’s spiritual director and Vicar-General of Macau Diocese Fr. Pedro Chung puts his hopes on the new group to reunite youths with Catholic faith to support each other in the University. “To become a university student, one has already experienced a big switch of lifestyle. CATSO may provide a sense of belonging for Catholics to host events, and also, to reach out to the non-faithful,” he said to O Clarim. Fr. Chung also hopes other universities in Macau will set up similar societies and associations for more collaboration. Communication among other countries and regions is also open, like in Hong Kong’s Catholic society.


Unity

Katie Au, 21, born in Hong Kong, got to know Eunice Vong through MAGIS, a Jesuit group that organized last year’s trip to Poland for the World Youth Day. Friendship bloomed ever since and the CATSO revival brought them together for a common purpose.

“She [Eunice] asked me to help her to reorganize the Society and to keep all Catholics together on this [University] campus. I also want all to be united and help each other to organize some activities that are not meant just for fun, but also to spread the Word of God to others,” Katie Au, CATSO’s treasurer, stressed.

She also said the leading members prefer not to ask much help from the Macau Diocese since their spiritual director, Fr. Pedro Chung, instilled in them the ambition to first try by themselves, to put their ideals into practice. “We try our best. However, they always give us advice on the activities,” Katie Au added.

Katie is completing the second year of her bachelor’s degree in Communication. First published in O Clarim.


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