Easter in Taiwan: discovering Christ by studying Pope Francis
Chou Yong-mei has been in television for a long time. As she worked on programme dedicate to the pontiff’s life and message, she met Catholics to understand better her subject matter. After a long temporal and spiritual journey, she decided to be baptised. “When I met real Catholics, in flesh and blood, I saw their dedication and the strength of their faith. I was impressed by the quantity and quality of services provided by many members of the community”.
Taipei (AsiaNews) – As in previous years, Taiwan's Easter Vigil saw the baptism of many catechumens in various parishes. Varying in age – infants, teenagers, and adults – and from different backgrounds, they took this important step and came to the most important liturgy of the year.
One of those who answered the calling is particularly interesting. Chou Yong-mei (仇擁梅) has been involved in TV for many years. Although she did not start out as a Christian, she worked in the past two years on a TV series on the life of Pope Francis, which will be aired new month.
Married with children, she worked for a major Taiwanese broadcaster for more than 20 years. In January 2014, she landed a job with Kuangchi Program Service (KPS, 光啟 社) to work on a famous advertising campaign on the values of Taiwan’s society and democracy. Given her experience and talent, the project was a success, which led to a new one on the life of Pope Francis for a national channel.
How did it start? "At first I was contacted to draw up a draft for a series of seven-minute clips on Pope Francis. I began to read his messages and his biography and to listen to some of what he said. I quickly realised that it could not be done in short bits. So I asked the president to produce a longer programme of 30-minute episodes. What Pope Francis had to say was far too important and had to be presented in its entirety, with examples from real people in real life."
Moreover, "I had to get more information and learn more since I was not a Catholic. I decided to enrol in catechism to understand how it all worked. When I met real Catholics, in flesh and blood, I saw their dedication and the strength of their faith. I was impressed by the quantity and quality of services provided by many members of the community and by many organisations that I did not even know were Catholic."
Then you started shooting the first episodes. "Yes, I decided to film the work of Catholic communities, especially with the needy, and the commitment of many believers and religious unknown to the media.”
“We focused on Taiwan’s marginal groups, villages and rural areas, those that do not appear on the front page. The more we filmed people, the more we became passionate about this programme. The director and the entire crew were very attentive, and had great patience. We felt good from the start."
What was the main idea, the main inspiration? "From the start, from the first draft, I always thought: 'Who does this sentence by the pope remind me? Who does this homily touch? Or this message? Perhaps a student in distress, or a single mother, or an older couple?’ So I researched in the various parish communities and made precise choices."
At the beginning, "there was a message of joy for marginalised people. We went to tape a community of nuns working in an Aboriginal area where they produce upbeat musical shows. The nuns play big drums on stage, and are full of energy. We realised it was the right thing to tape for television and broadcast at the beginning of the series. We did not tape only the show. We also filmed the beneficiaries of their work among the underprivileged. Finding such energy among those who work for the marginalised impressed me a lot."
Similarly, "seeing so many Catholics work together to solve real problems in everyday life, work and family impressed me. After that, participating in catechism was no longer tied to my desire to be better informed; it became part of my life. Thus, during a trip with the crew I came to understand the reason for the television programme and catechism classes: I wanted to offer my energy for the benefit of society. I saw this strength coming from the choice of faith, which is the basis of the mission, in my case in the media world."
From that moment onward, "I convinced myself that I had to ask to be baptised. I decided right away. I realised that Christians know how to accompany in real life. They understand people’s difficulties. For this reason, the great work Catholics do in society, not only in the Church, is included in the programme. We want to reach a young audience, so we chose two young hosts who know how to laugh and joke naturally when presenting important issues."
When the casting was done, "I focused on how they knew to show inner and outer joy. We do not put Pope Francis on the air to worship him. For the same reason, we did not film believers, nuns or priests to turn them into heroes. We present the work of an entire community supported by great ideals for the common life, attentive to the problems of every day. To me that seems to be the spirit of Pope Francis.”
“Even the title 'Oh my God!' was chosen in this atmosphere of being close to reality. We often use such an interjection in various contexts: either when we are tired of something or surprised by something special in ordinary life. I am sure that those who will see the year-long weekly programme will be touched by the contents as they touched me."
The programme on Pope Francis and Taiwan is entitled 'Oh my God!', and is produced by KPS. It will be broadcast on the Dong Feng channel (東風, Azio TV) starting Saturday evening, 16 April.