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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview of Father Chrispen Matsilele, SJ.

Father Matsilele is a Film and Television Production specialist at Loyola Productions, Inc Zambia

Dr. Knight:  This is a different time in our Church as we are all facing the Coronavirus of 2020.  What are your thoughts about this virus?

Father Matsilele: The emergency of the Coronavirus set the entire humanity to yet another level of self-consciousness. This is a consciousness that calls for human beings as meaning making beings to reconsider our position in this planet earth as situated beings. It challenges our beliefs and our faith and yet at the same time it calls us into deeper reflection.Depending how each individual, people and nation handles this, this pandemic can arouse in us a strong sense of solidarity or can make us self-looking.  If it arouses a strong sense of solidarity,then we begin to realize that we have been created by God to be each other’s brother and sister.If it arouse in us a sense of self-looking, we may end up caught is the process of othering and blaming the other as the cause. For me, while this pandemic is life-devastating, solidarity will take us through and we can emerge as a human race stronger than before and our faith stronger than before. In this situation, media and how media communicate becomes key. What will either build us or destroy us is based on the level of media responsibility in dealing with issues urrounding COVID-19.

Dr. Knight: For the last 4 weeks technology has truly been a life saver for many of us.Those who go to daily Mass and Communion are provided with the online Mass.  How has technology affected your Jesuit home?

Father Matsilele: We have been live streaming our masses.  The entire world to me has become the altar and all humanity can easily share in the offering to God through masses. I find this fascinating because we tend to reach more people than when we were confined to our Jesuit parishes of Matero and St. Ignatius. Technology has enabled us to even become more connected in social distancing and we have remained alive as a people.   Dr. Knight:  Could you tell us about your ministry in television.  What led you to this as a Jesuit priest?

Father Matsilele: I have always been a storyteller as a meaning making being. Moving into television ministry have even heightened my love for storytelling by offering me that platform through which the little stories of little men and women are given an opportunity. There are many small stories that have never been told on the larger alter of human existence and experiences,but through technology this is now possible. My duty has been very simple, i.e., I play the duty of a midwife. What drove me to television was this desire to make a different by being a little man who after sharing the little stories of people on the margins, will help transform and enrich the current big narratives and human experiences.   Dr. Knight: Could you tell us some films that led people to Christ and His Church?

Father Matsilele: The passion of Christ, the ten commandments, Quo Vadis, the Missions, and many other small documentaries that we do at Loyola here in Lusaka Zambia, Munich Germany and Marymount California USA just to mention a few. I am currently involved in a production of a 13 week program entitled: 40 Days and 40 Nights: A Journey with Christ through Art. Here we use the artworks such as paintings,sculpture, graffiti among others to tell the story of journey with Christ as he is experienced by both little artists and people in general. Thus, we consider our work in this regard as: small stories with big issues.   Dr. Knight:  Your background is in communications and technology, how has this been a truly exceptional gift at this time?

Father Matsilele: in an age where people are all locked down in the houses, little experiences of people continue to be shared. In this way, we keep people connected and feeling that they are always in communion with each other. Thus, this background has enabled me to provide the platform through which humanity as a people of God on pilgrimage continue to journey and walk together in hope and solidarity.   Dr. Knight: The Gospel today is about Lazarus and his sisters.  What significance is Lazarus in today’s anxious society?

Father Matsilele: One of the episodes that we did through art was a contrast of Lazarus in the bible and our own Lazarus of the four day. While the Lazarus in the Gospel of John was died and was raised, our own Lazarus is alive. He is not in the tomb but outside. This our Lazarus of the four day lives a ghostly life. While alive he/she lives as a shadow and not recognized by the community. It is this Lazarus of the four days that one of our episodes paid attention to. For us,this Lazarus is best represented by the blind, the street kids, men and women on the margins among others. They are all invisible our reality of life. What I am describing here is captured in one of our 13 week program: 40 Days and 40 Nights: A Journey with Christ through Art.   Dr. Knight: From the news, it looks like you are a specialist in charge of productions ministry. What does that mean for you?

Father Matsilele: Production is comprised of first conceptualizing the concept, working on the script, going out to shoot (bringing the story life), editing and packaging for TV broadcasting.   Dr. Knight: What are the struggles you find in your ministry today? Father Matsilele: There are many stories to tell but resources have been a big issue. Television consumes money and time.   Dr. Knight: There needs to be a sense of hope and healing in our world today as my sons are bringing up 5 children under the age of 6.  What words do you have for them?

Father Matsilele: A purposeful life is always not an easy one let alone if is meant to change the lives of others. We are all broken people and yet the little things that we can do, let us do them as if it was our last opportunity to do something good for the other. I tell you, if you are generous, you will never die. You will keep on living forever in the memory of those whose lives you have helped change and they will pass your legacy from one generation to the next and through this God’s will be glorified through your name.   Dr. Knight: How did you decide to become a Jesuit priest? It seems to be a very supportive community, have you found that to be true?

Father Matsilele: The life of both Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier had had great impact on me. For instance, reading the biography of Francis, Francis is given an opportunity to go and say goodbye to his own people. Francis say: “I won’t go to say goodbye because I prefer to give a good example to the future young Jesuits who come after me.” He left for India and never to return home alive. Everything he did, he always thought of others first. This is what I found profound and brought me to the Society. Not a big story of his converting people, but only this gesture was enough for me and often this might even form a very small story that can easily be ignored when telling the story of Francis Xavier. I have found the Jesuit communities very supportive and liberating.

Dr. Knight: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your work?

Father Matsilele: A life worth living is a life lived for the other, to make the other better than oneself. To me, my mother and father are good examples of this. While they did not go to school themselves, the wanted me to go to school so that I can always be better than they were. They became poorer in order to enrich me so that I can see farther than them.


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