For the first time in the history of the church in China, a Catholic seminary on the mainland is offering a master’s degree to train pastoral workers and catechists. The three-year pastoral and catechetical master’s program will start on Oct. 5 at a seminary in Beijing. Most of the six applicants—a mix of priests, nuns and lay people—are from dioceses in northern China. The Catholic University of Leuven  in Belgium is helping to organize the program. Michel Marcil, S.J., executive director of the U.S. Catholic China Bureau in South Orange, N.J., called the initiative “a breakthrough.” The “devout faithful in Chinese parishes” have been helping prepare candidates for baptism every year, Marcil said, but they have been following a question-and-answer format based on studying the catechism. The new course of study would guide them in a form of catechesis more in line with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.