Television adventure of 'the Bishop of Children'

Fr Piotr Zaborski, programme director of the Catholic Radio FIAT, talks to Bishop Antoni Dlugosz, frequent visitor of the TV programme 'Ziarno'.

Fr Piotr Zaborski: - How did you co-operation with the TV programme 'Ziarno' begin?

Bishop Antoni Dlugosz: - A few years ago I wrote a Bible for children entitled 'Good God Speaks to us', published by Edycja Paulinska. At the same the TV station was looking for a priest to participate in the popular children's programme 'Ziarno'. It happened so that the husband of some woman, who worked for Edycja Paulinska, was involved in the TVP Catholic programmes. This woman suggested him to talk to me because I had very good contacts with children. Some even call me 'Bishop of Children'. After some time I received an official invitation for an interview with the director of the programme and then I was invited to the programme itself.

- We can watch the Programme 'Ziarno' on Saturday mornings, later it is broadcast on Television Polonia. However, it is known that the programme is recorded earlier. Could you give us some details of the work on the programme?

- We receive a script of the programme one or two weeks in advance. I must admit that the most difficult thing for me is to memorise some sentences because the children must know when to say their parts.

- A teleprompter would be useful, 'an autocue' to project the script...

- Oh, yes, but we have not got that device. So we must, as the children put it, 'learn by heart', and obviously they memorise very quickly and I am walking in the studio and repeat the script.

- Do slip-ups happen sometimes?

- Very often. Actually, performing in front of cameras makes you aware of all linguistic errors, wrong accent or 'swallowed' syllables. It happens that I speak too loudly and the microphones are very sensitive. They react so much that once I had a sheet with the text 'for support', and there was an immediate question from the control room, 'Who is rustling?' Since I do not use playback in the programme, but I sing live, it happens that I forget the words and then we must patiently repeat this part.

- How do the workers of the huge institution, which is the national television, react to the presence of a priest in a cassock, with a bishop's cross on the chest?

- I cannot wear the cross in the programme because in the scenes where I danced with the children the cross hit the microphone, which caused sound distortion. I often walk along the corridors looking for the right room or I go to the cafe where one can eat, and I have never met negative reactions. I think that all workers got used to my presence. Especially that I use the principle of Jesus - I am kind to everybody; I greet everybody with a smile and good word.

- How do the children react to performing with you?

- The children who appear in 'Ziarno' are deeply attached to me. We work together very well, there are moments all children want to sit on my lap, which is naturally impossible. I know many parents of these children and I respect them a lot. Some are jealous of the children's sympathy for me.

- Are the recordings made on a fixed day of the week?

- We receive a schedule for the whole year. Unfortunately, sometimes it clashes with my pastoral duties. Recently I signalled the organisers that I lecture in Lublin and cannot take part in the planned recording. To my surprise, the date was postponed although I thought that I did not have to appear in every programme.

- How can one create a good atmosphere for a given theme in the television studio?

- The scenarios are very interesting and perfectly prepared. Some requisites, for example fruit or jubilee tort on the occasion of the 16th anniversary of 'Ziarno', are real so we must eat them after the programme in order not to waste food. I am always happy when the technical service or cameramen can help themselves.

- We know the children and actors being on the camera, we do not know those 'behind the camera'. Is there a large team?

- There are usually four cameramen and there is a director. There is a studio with monitors showing pictures from the particular cameras. A producer informs the cameramen to whom they should direct the cameras and what shot to take. There are sound specialists, several people in charge of the stage set and costumes, in a word a big team without which the programme will not exist.

- Recently the team of 'Ziarno' performed in the Philharmonic Hall in Czestochowa. Did you invite the performers to Czestochowa?

- Czestochowa was in 'Ziarno' a long time ago because I often repeat in the programme that I live in Czestochowa and I hurry to children from that city. It was the time the inhabitants of Czestochowa could see actors and children live and that the authors of the programme would get to know our city and our kids. I was happy that the meeting took place on 25 February and it was organised by the Pastoral Ministry of Creative Environments and the Pastoral Vocational Department of the Metropolitan Curia in Czestochowa.

- Thank you for the conversation.

"Niedziela" 10/2006

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: