Favorite color? What makes you happy? What are you good at? What is your greatest fear… “Twenty Questions” is a regular feature in which SCJs and those with whom they minister and collaborate share a bit about themselves in an informal Q&A. Participants are given the same list of questions and are invited to answer as many as they would like.
Originally from India, Fr. Praveen Kumar Richard, SCJ, is a member of the SCJ community at St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, SD.
Q: Where were you born and raised? Describe your family.
FR. PRAVEEN: I was born in Tamil Nadu, one of the states in India. I am the second child among the six. I have one older brother and two younger brothers and two sisters, but the almighty God has called the last sister to His Kingdom, leaving the five to live on this earth. My parents are very simple. My father is a fisherman and my mother is a housewife. Both of them worked hard to raise us and give us a good education so that we could have more options than being fishermen. However, two of my brothers decided to become fishermen to support my father’s hardships. I am always proud to say that “I am the son of the Fisherman” because Jesus had fishermen as his disciples.
Q: What is your favorite book or movie?
FR. PRAVEEN: “The Life of Pi” is one of my favorite movies because it makes me think and feel that “even in the mist of hopelessness, don’t lose faith on the future.” My favorite book is called Man’s Search for Meaning, written by Viktor E. Frankl, because it taught me how to patiently maintain hope with positivity.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world post-pandemic – without concern about the expense – where would you go and why?
FR. PRAVEEN: This seems to be a simple question but it makes me think a lot, for there is no place beyond what my eyes see that is not marvelous. But for the sake answering, I would like to go to Niagara Falls to see its immense beauty. I learned about Niagara Falls in movies and tourist books when I was a child. This sparked a curiosity that makes me want to visit them.
Q: What are you good at?
FR. PRAVEEN: I believe that I am good at building relationships with everyone; I never want to harm others but rather make others happy. I live my life in simplicity and humbleness with others, trying to help others as much as possible. I work hard to fulfill my responsibilities; I have a heart that feels as one with others in their sorrows and joys. These are some of the qualities that people have told me that I have so I feel that I have them in me and try to live up to them.
Q: What is your favorite color?
FR. PRAVEEN: My favorite color is a mix of white and blue for l like love, harmony, peace and purity.
Q: Do you have any hobbies or pastimes? If so, what are they and how did you get interested in them?
FR. PRAVEEN: Some of my hobbies include reading books, watching different language movies, painting, writing, listening to music, listening to spiritual talks from all religions via YouTube and other social media, hiking the nearby paths, dancing, learning and playing American football, and doing meditation at the bank of the Missouri River alongside St. Joseph Indian School. I do this because it gives me peace of mind and takes away my loneliness.
Q: What is your favorite food?
FR. PRAVEEN: Any dish that is made out of fish is my favorite food. I love to eat the combination of fish curry with more spices in it, along with rice. I miss a lot from home, but I have learned to eat anything that is set on the table.
Q: What is your least favorite chore?
FR. PRAVEEN: I think of arranging my books in their own proper places after every use but often I scatter them all around my table, which really can annoy me when I have to put them back later.
Q: Who — living or deceased — do you most admire and why?
FR. PRAVEEN: I always admired my grandfather and grandmother who had good reputations among the people of our village. Both of them passed away but their legacy remains in my thoughts and actions. They were very simple and gentle in their approach; very pious, loving and caring to the poor. My grandfather was a medicine man who treated the sick with Ayurveda medicine. He was highly respected among the people. He loved me so much and taught me to help others when they sought my assistance. Even at his death bed he was calling my name but I wasn’t there for I was in the seminary at that time in another state.
Q: What would surprise people to learn about you?
FR. PRAVEEN: People might think that my shortness is a disability when doing things that are easy for tall people. But I often surprise myself doing well with sports such as volleyball, basketball, jumping, climbing, etc.
Q: What skill or talent would you like to have that you do not? Why?
FR. PRAVEEN: Singing or playing any music instrument because doing so interests people while allowing you to do ministry.
Q: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
FR. PRAVEEN: I wanted to be either a cricket player or a soccer player; I worked hard at each but had no support or guidance in this direction.
Q: What makes you happy?
FR. PRAVEEN: Spending time with others (community, family, relatives and friends) and helping others with their necessities.
Q: What is your greatest fear?
FR. PRAVEEN: Rejection, whether people accept me or not.
Q: What trait or habit do you dislike in yourself?
FR. PRAVEEN: For the sake of peace and obedience, offering submissiveness, sacrifice, and tolerance when others might be wrong.
Q: What trait or habit do you dislike in others?
FR. PRAVEEN: Arrogance, gossiping and being judgmental without knowing the truth.
Q: List three words that describe you.
FR. PRAVEEN: Humble, sincere and hard worker.
Q: How did you come to know of the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians) and what interested you about them?
FR. PRAVEEN: After the year-end sophomore exam, I was playing cricket with my friends during vacation. While we were playing, a former SCJ missionary, Fr. Jose Guilherme Gouveia from Portugal, came to us along with one of the local priests and called us to the parochial house. He spoke to us about religious life and priesthood with the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I never had any intention of becoming a religious. But because of my friends, we four of us decided to go for a “Come and See” at the minor seminary. I was just 14 at that time. During those three days, I got to know more about our congregation and its mission. Love, service, hope and charity were the things that stuck out the most for me during those days. However, at the end of discernment process I said that, “I do not to want to be a priest”. Yet, the spirit of the Lord was hunting me. I called the seminary and said that I was interested in becoming a priest. By the divine revelation of God’s mercy and kindness to the fathers, they accepted me with 20 others for initial formation. Now, it is only me; 20 left the seminary during formation.
Q: Do you consider yourself a Dehonian? If so, what does that mean to you?
FR. PRAVEEN: Dehonians focus on the “love that overflows from the Heart of Jesus” as an “act of reparatory love.” Hence, every individual member of the congregation should explicitly carry and witness himself as a son of reparatory love. In Eucharistic Adoration we bring forth the sins of the world as an act of reparation, and also draw from Jesus the sufficient strength to go to people as ministers of God’s love. I believe that I am a Dehonian because love is the foundation of everything and my life is rooted in the love of God and love of neighbor; often this invites me to endure pain and suffering for the sake of others. The reparatory love of Jesus in me directs my life in joy, happiness and peace. And, I live by the Dehonian spirit of availability and charity in establishing social justice in me and in others.
Q: What changes, adaptations or insights do you expect to stay with you from the pandemic? In other words, how do you expect to be changed by COVID-19?
FR. PRAVEEN: In the beginning, I was easily panicked, worried about my family, friends, relatives, and SCJ confreres throughout the world. Social interactions were made with a lot of restrictions; spiritual activities felt like they were under question marks. The school campus became dead without people, and depression, anger, fear and hopelessness brought many internal changes in me. But eventually I realized that when one door is being closed the other door opens for us to adapt and enter into a new way of life. Now, the world begins to function in different ways and we try to cope with a new “normal.” We, at St. Joseph;’s Indian School, are living a new life, making use of technology a lot, and taking much preventive care. For me, COVID-19 was a sign that opened a gate to technology to enter into our lives as our companion. We see it as a friendly tool that when used appropriately, can help us greatly.