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Macau Catholic center to help disadvantaged students

Father Michael Cheung, the parish priest of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Macau

In Macau, a Catholic parish has opened a center to assist students from poor and disadvantaged families who need special academic assistance.

Our Lady of Fatima Church opened the center named “Os Três Pastorinhos” (Three Little Shepherds) to institutionalize the voluntary efforts of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary to support students with special educational needs, said Parish priest Father Michael Cheung.

The Catholic newspaper Jornal-O-Claim quoted Father Cheung as saying that he has applied for a license from Macau authorities to run the facilities with an expansion of volunteers.

Macau is experiencing a form of revolutionary poverty that is hidden from the public's view, the priest said.

Most parents from Macau earn low wages in mainland China, so they frequently need to travel to and from Macau to earn a living. As a result, they leave their children behind and neglect their education.

“In Macau, people tell me there is no poverty and everyone has food, a place to live, and clothing,” he said, “Many families are disorderly, and parents cross borders several times a day. Their children live in mainland China and they have to travel to Macau several times a day to take care of them.”

At the moment, 12 youth attend the after-school program at the center, which is staffed by two teachers, and it will expand with time, the priest said.

"Our after-school program caters to children with special needs and helps those who need help. The program provides a valuable service for families. Services like these help communities flourish," said Father Cheung.

Franciscan missionary nuns in Macau came to serve the increasing number of students who need special educational support several years ago.

Father Cheung said, the nun retired over a year ago and the church wants to continue her work. 

The Education Commission of Macau Diocese a few years ago asked church-run education institutes to give special attention to students from disadvantaged families, despite a lack of staff and resources. So they run the center with limited students.

“At the moment, we support 12 students, but we plan to support many more children and young people, so we must obtain a license to ensure the program are operated in a structured fashion. Since we do not have a license, children cannot be taken,” he explained.

On December 7, 1968, Our Lady of Fatima church was inaugurated in the diocese of Macau.

It is one of the nine Catholic parishes of the diocese in the Portuguese colony


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