09/16/2006, 00.00
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Hong Kong: Chinese youth study catechism online

The Online School of Evangelization is one year old. A total of 700 people, mostly Chinese, have enrolled for its course, available in English and Chinese. Thanks to this initiative, more emphasis is being given to catechism in parishes in mainland China.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/SE) – The Online School of Evangelization launched by the Friends of Jesus' Passover is one year old. This school has paved the way for use of the Internet in Catholic evangelization and provided the means for many Chinese youth to press ahead with their catechism.

The school was set up in the summer of 2005. It offers, entirely free of charge, a Catholic evangelization course in English and Chinese, structured over two years. To date, over 200 youth of Hong Kong have completed the first year of the course and are preparing to start "practical training" that will take place in parishes across the territory.

Students said they spent two to three hours a week studying their lessons, which they accessed on the website www.evschool.net and wrote at least one email a week to other students about what they learned. Tutors contribute to "debates" through an online chat room [a webpage that allows for discussion] to clarify any doubts the youth may have.

Lo Shuk-ming, a parishioner from St John the Baptist church, said the online concept has given Catholics in different places new insights. "The Internet is not restricted by geography. So I can chat with friends from different countries. For example, I learned from some people in China that thanks to the course, they have managed to emphasize evangelization among their parishioners."

Besides, "many students have fulltime jobs, so it is difficult for them to attend classes on a regular basis. The chat room provided by the school gives us opportunities and flexibility." Lo added: "Besides discussing coursework, we also talk about other subjects, such as the Da Vinci Code film."

Fr Giovanni Giampietro, a missionary of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions (PIME), is responsible for catechism in the Territory and is the project supervisor. He said: "Initially I thought an online school would not have a sense of belonging and unity. But after a while, discussions in the chat room became quite active and I saw some beautiful sharing amongst the students. Sometimes when one student asks for others to pray for them, there is an enthusiastic response."

The missionary said that over 700 students from all over the world have enrolled in the school since 21 August 2005 and most of them have achieved good results.  Most are Chinese, including many youth: the youngest is 13 years.

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