JESAM Communications Officer (JCO) sit-down with Rev. Charles Chilufya SJ (C.C) to get insight into his new role as Social Apostolate Coordinator and JASCNET Director, having taken over from Rev. Rigobert Minani SJ
JCO - Welcome, thank you for agreeing to speak to me in order to get a feel of your new role at JESAM.
As we begin…tell us a little bit about yourself? What defines Fr. Chilufya?
C.C- Back home I’m called by my nickname Fr. Charlie because I worked among students a lot. Anyway…I’m a Zambian, and a Jesuit. What defines me is PASSION…passion about what I do, about change, and to make a difference in the world.
JCO - You took over what many may consider a challenging role. How does it make you feel following in the footsteps of your predecessor Fr. Rigobert Minani SJ?
C.C - First, I was asked by my Superiors to think about doing this kind of work and I looked at what it involved. I also did some reflection to see whether this resonated with what I felt I was called to…I have spent a lot of time in the social ministries of the Jesuits since I was a scholastic. In this case, then, this is not something that is very new to me. It’s something I’m already very passionate about and when asked to take up this vocation, I accepted with a lot of humility and generosity. This is an important work of the Society, it’s a challenging kind of work…if you ask me it is a big task. But I have a lot of love and respect for the Society…even after I thought to myself though that, it’s a big, involving role, I have the background training for it…I am up to this call and will do it…of course there are so many other things that are daunting and sometimes I ask myself…will I make it… but through prayer, entrusting to the Lord in my moments of reflection this vocation, I feel called to it!
JCO - What do you have in mind for JASCNET and the social apostolate as a whole?
C.C - First of all as we talk about the call…the way I understand myself as a Jesuit…as we look at the mission of the Society of Jesus, It’s summarized as a service of faith and the promotion of Justice. We can’t talk about faith without its connection to the fact that we have to be just people. We have to promote justice…it is very cardinal. The work that I’m doing now very well expresses what the Society stands for…so I thank God for that…because this will give me an opportunity to really live out the Jesuit vocation….and this is actually what attracted me to the society…
…as a young undergraduate I was thinking to myself what can I really do with my life…and I knew at that time I was already looking at my life as something that could be shared and broken like the life of Jesus…and I began to look at my life like that…but then what was put before me, when I was reflecting and praying about my life was a world that is broken…lives that are broken and I felt attracted to be a priest to help bring healing to the world…but I asked myself…what kind of a priest…?…and I came into contact with the Jesuits and the way they looked at the world, the way they handled issues of faith and life and I felt that this identified with me very well…so this role to coordinate social ministries with Jesuits really resonates with what I feel I’m called to…to respond to God in concrete ways and to bring healing to a broken world. I intent to work in this role with this in mind, be it in social justice, ecology and any other pressing need.
JCO - Reflecting back on your predecessor Fr. Minani SJ, who during a training called upon Jesuits and Collaborators to be on the frontline in creating awareness of what’s being done on the ground by Jesuits be it a disaster, social justice etc…and amplify that message how do these sentiments relate to your current vision
C.C - If you think about the GC35 which calls us to the work of reconciliation, our work draws from this as our responsibility in social ministry is to support and give some kind of force and direction in this work of reconciliation…because really it’s about bridging gaps between the poor and the rich…promoting ecology…all this is the work of reconciling men and women with God, with one another, with themselves and with nature as well…this reconciliation brings forth a world that we all want. The Society of Jesus through the social ministries is doing all this work of reconciliation and it is not something we can do alone. There are so many facets to this and they all involve joining in efforts with others. We have our strengths and gifts as Jesuits but we don’t have it all…in building bridges we will do it with others, be it the lay and clergy, catholic and non-Catholic, Christian and non-Christian…it is collaborative. It is what God calls us too be…to work together as human beings…to bring about a better world. We are not simply going into this work of collaboration because we are short of number or short of skills…but because this is what God calls us to. We all have a role to play for a better world.
JCO - As we come to a close Fr. Charlie, what’s your message to the social apostolate as a whole, the JASC-Network, to all Jesuits, brothers, and Collaborators?
C.C - I see my main role as to coordinate, to network…and this is very crucial and I pray for God’s strength in that regard…as we have so much to do…but we can only achieve what we want to do if we do it in a collaborative way…we need one another…we need to work together, we have so much potential, power, so many gifts as the Society of Jesus and these gifts, potentials, won’t achieve much until we synergize…being led by the spirit of God for greater impact.
JCO - Thank you very much Fr. Charlie, wishing you all the best and in our prayers!
By Anastasia Makunu (JCO)