Fr. Matthew Charlesworth, S.J. was born in Cambridge, England in 1979 and moved with his family to South Africa in 1983. He completed his schooling at St Stithians College, later graduating from Rhodes University (in Makhanda) with a Bachelor of Business Science (BBusSc), receiving medals and prizes, and a Master’s degree in Information Systems (MCom). His research investigated the increasing need for a formal ethics component in the information systems curriculum in South Africa. Whilst at Rhodes University Matthew was elected SRC President, served as National President of the Association of Catholic Tertiary Students, and was inducted into the Golden Key International Honour Society. He participated nationally and internationally in the Debating Society, and was awarded the prestigious Sir Abe Bailey Travel Bursary for outstanding leadership. Whilst studying, he worked at the University lecturing Information Systems, was invited to be part of the Brightest Young Minds intake, and served as a Warden in the Residence System. During university holidays, Matthew undertook vacation work at Anglo American Platinum but felt God was calling him to something more.
He entered the Society of Jesus in 2005 at the novitiate in Birmingham, England as a member of the South African Region. This was a time for him to confirm his vocation and to learn to pray while experiencing various short ‘experiments’. In Ireland he made a silent retreat according to the 30 day Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola in Dublin; he helped create ‘happy memories’ by serving single mothers and their children from poor and abusive backgrounds in Galway, who could otherwise not afford it, at a beach holiday, and lived in a L’Arche community as an assistant caring for individuals who were intellectually and physically disabled; he apprenticed as a hospital chaplain at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary’s child oncology unit, and in an HIV/AIDS counselling centre for gay men with a heroin addiction under the tutelage of a female Episcopalian Priest in Scotland; he volunteered at an Old Age home in Birmingham, England; and completed a begging pilgrimage in Spain walking from Santander to Barcelona visiting various Ignatian places. After being invited to make his perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in the Society of Jesus in 2007, he completed the usual Jesuit formation: with studies in Philosophy at Heythrop College (London, England); a school regency at Canisius Secondary School (Chikuni, Zambia), where he taught high school mathematics and computer science for 2 years; and a part-time job teaching English at Dominican Convent School (Belgravia, Johannesburg), and computer science at Loyola Secondary School (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania). He pursued theological studies at Hekima College (Nairobi, Kenya) and Regis College (Toronto, Canada). He holds advanced graduate degrees from the University of London in Philosophy (MA), where he examined the role of pleasure in the Natural Law theories of Timothy Chappell and John Finnis, and the University of Toronto in Theology (ThM), where his thesis focused on the image of God, using the African understanding of Ubuntu, and the Holy Trinity, based on the work of Hans Urs von Balthasar and Bernard Lonergan. He also holds a pontifical licentiate in Systematic Theology (STL) from Regis College where he was elected into the Jesuit International Honour Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. He has also completed an internship on film and video production at Loyola Productions in Culver City, Los Angeles, California and attended an intensive executive education course in management at Loyola University New Orleans, Louisiana in the United States. His Jesuit formation has taken him to live and work in Canada, France, Belgium, Holland, Ireland, Kenya, Spain, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. For various lengths of his formation, he mastered forgetting bits of Zulu, Chitonga, Swahili, French, Hebrew, Greek and Latin, thus affirming that he really only had a passing knack for computer languages.
After ordination to the priesthood in September 2016 at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Braamfontein in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg, he served as a curate there, beginning his ministry during the #FeesMustFall protests. He was then missioned to work at the Jesuit Institute South Africa in Auckland Park, Johannesburg where his main area of work was in Spirituality and Spiritual Direction, but he also served on the staff of the online digital publication, https://spotlight.africa . He is a member of Spiritual Directors International and lectured in Sacred Scripture as a part-time lecturer at St Augustine’s College in Linden, Johannesburg.
On the 25 March 2021, Fr General suppressed the Region of South Africa, and the Provinces of Zimbabwe-Mozambique, and Zambia-Malawi, and erected the new Province of Southern Africa in the Society of Jesus. Matthew was missioned to Lusaka, Zambia as the Director of Communications in the new Province Curia.
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