A small, discreet center at the back entrance of St Lawrence’s Church has turned into a souvenir store with an aim of promoting Catholicism, making it the first store to open in a church’s premise in Macau.
Parish priest of St Lawrence’s Church, Fr Jojo Ancheril, explained to the Times that the store is aimed at disseminating the Catholic faith, culture and history.
“Since it’s [St Lawrence] a tourist attraction and historical place, a lot of people come, [but] when they go out, they don’t get anything from our own faith,” he explained.
The discreet shop currently retails rosaries, books, Virgin Mary statues and relevant key chains. According to the priest, they are planning to order additional items such as bibles and publications related to Catholicism.
“It will take some more time,” said the priest, contemplating when the store would be fully stocked.
As this year marks the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima, the priest noted that the church is planning to create customized souvenirs that have the image of the saint.
The items would also be available for retail at the newly opened store, though no dates were revealed.
Fr Ancheril noted that St Lawrence and St Joseph’s Seminary used to sell souvenir items in the past but it was done sporadically as there was no area allocated to sell the items.
In addition, according to him, the items were presented at the reception area only when a volunteer was available to take charge.
It is uncommon for the former Portuguese enclave to launch a gift shop in a church’s premises, yet the parish priest clarified that similar stores could be found in other countries.
“In other countries of course we have [gift shops]. In [my] country [India], most of the parishes have their own souvenir shop. Overall this is usual, just [not] in Macau,” Fr Ancheril stressed.
When asked whether the store would stir up disapproval amongst the attending Catholics, the parish priest remarked that residents assisting the project are mostly local parishioners.
“Our idea is not to make profit so we don’t call it a shop,” he reiterated.
“I would say it’s part of the parish through which we promote our own faith. […] But with the help of volunteers, we will be organizing all these things in a better way,” the priest added.