The rapid transformation of Chinese Catholicism and its adaptation to the new urban environment has been brought about by a wide range of participants and not just by the clergy. This article explores the motivations, organization and influences of one specific type of promotion of Chinese Catholicism: the entrepreneurial lay Catholics who have migrated from the rural countryside to the constantly growing Chinese cities.
The hundreds of thousands of Catholics who left their villages after the 1980s were in search of better opportunities. Today, many of them are well-established urban dwellers, translating their Catholic commitment into a new lifestyle. What some of them have built goes beyond traditional parish life and remains largely unknown to the broader audience interested in the Church in China. While these religious organizations do share similarities with some Protestant communities, they also have specific features and dynamics that those observing the Church in China may want to consider.
Therefore, this article sheds light on these migrant Catholics and their networks in order to show how they have decisively caused the Church to adjust itself to new social conditions. First, the article briefly revisits the recent social and economic changes in the People’s Republic of China to present the broader social context that has guided rural Catholics to leave their hometowns.