“What a shocking message. What a sad message. What an unexpected message. Just three days ago we took the privilege in conferring upon Fr. Ronnie Prabhu the Award as an “Outstanding Community Leader” for the year 2014/2015. Just yesterday having enquired with Fr. Denzil the email address of Fr. Ronnie Prabhu and meanwhile I bought a nice “Get Well” card to be sent to him with a nice letter about the Award. God has His own plans in this world. God knows the best for each one of us. Fr. Ronnie was a great leader, a great scholar and also a great friend. May Fr. Ronnie rest in peace”- Max and Jessie Rasquinha, USA.
Mangaluru: Always smiling, most humble, very spiritual and very much loved by students of St Aloysius College and well-wishers/friends – Fr Ronnie Prabhu SJ, more than a priest was a friend of all. His sudden death after prolonged illness has shocked everyone who were near and dear to him- Sadly missed. With heartfelt sympathies I dedicate this article as a tribute to my beloved priest, my mentor, and most of all my great friend. It was over three decades ago that I had very close association with Fr Prabhu, while I was a BSc student at St Aloysius College- and in 1984 when I was the secretary/Editor-in-Chief of SAC Co-Life Association/Magazine, I used to spend an hour with Fr Prabhu every week- where he would reply to the questions asked by the students, as part of a SAC Co-Life Magazine section, “Ask The Rector!”. Fr Ronnie used to answer every question that was posed at him by the students, no matter how bad and rude the questions were, with his stern and sometimes witty answers. Tit-for-tat! When done with our meeting, Fr Ronnie used to give me some loose change to buy bhelpuri and sugarcane juice at ‘Mangli’s’- a sugarcane juice/bhelpuri shack near the college.
Few months back I had the opportunity to meet Fr Ronnie Prabhu at a programme- approaching him I said, ” Father, do you remember me?”. Pausing for a while, he replied, ” Are you, Alfie? Oh my God, what happened to you, I remember you were chubby and bubbly during your college days-now you have lost weight and gone slim”. In reply, I said, ” Oh my God, what happened to you Fr- you were young and hefty the last time I saw you at College, now you look old and grey haired “. We laughed and hugged ourselves. Few days ago when I read the news that Fr Ronnie was conferred with an ‘Outstanding Community Leader” Award, I was overwhelmed and wanted to a exclusive interview with him- I was trying to get Fr Prabhu’s phone number or email address- but now with his demise my plans are all in vain. For many years after I completed my studies at St Aloysius College, I was in touch with Fr Ronnie constantly for many years- even when I moved to US in 1990, every year I used to mail him a Christmas card, and few times he sent me a card back with a prayer attached to it. For some reasons we lost contact, I couldn’t keep communicating, probably due to his transfer from institution to institution.
It was shocking to read the news that Father Ronnie Prabhu, former provincial of Karnataka Jesuits, renowned retreat preacher and promoter of interreligious dialogue, died Tuesday, 18 August in Bengaluru. He was suffering from cancer for some time. He was 75, and his death occurred at St Philomena Hospital- Bengaluru at 6.45 pm, where he was under observation in the Intensive Care Unit for the past two days. Those present said he was cheerful to the end and died with a smile on his face. His funeral will be held at 9 am on August 20 at St Joseph’s College chapel, Bengaluru, and the burial will be held at Mount St. Joseph Jesuit house at Bannerghatta. It is learnt that Fr Prabhu was diagnosed with terminal abdominal cancer in January. Earlier in May, he had undergone surgery at Narayana Hradayalaya. He had a tough time since then.
Fr Ronnie Prabhu had made a difference in people’s lives as a clergy/rector at St Aloysius then- by walking with people he knew and also strangers, journeying together with them, interacting with them at the most special moments of their lives, the greatest joys and the deepest sorrows. Therefore everyone respected and adored him as a religious leader, a devoted priest, a religious educator of young and the old and as a true role model. He was always courteous and ready to assist anyone in need regardless of their religion or way of life.
For Catholic Christians, priests are mentors, teachers and friends who celebrate both the ordinary and special events in their lives. Therefore, it is important to find the right priest to share these moments with you, and for that matter, Fr Prabhu was the right example. His communication during retreats have touched the hearts of many people. He always had a bright smile on his face, and showed a friendly nature, for which he was admired for his love and friendship. His vibrant personality and love flowed throughout all functions, may it be be college or church events. His nature of closeness and friendliness endeared him to all.
Fr Ronnie always created a welcoming atmosphere-he represented humility and had a way of making his acquaintances feel equally important. People were attracted to him since he was kind and friendly, together being gentle and cheerful. Always warm, compassionate and smile on his face, people have seen Fr Ronnie’s journey in his walk with God, and so many people were blessed to be on that path with Fr Ronnie and his smile that transcended any barrier. Fr Ronnie had a reputation as a “true pastor”.
Smart, active, intelligent, energetic, social, friendly, and a spiritual Catholic priest, Fr Prabhu has won the hearts of everyone who came in contact with him. Today faithful expect their priest to be a dynamic preacher, impressive celebrant, effective healer, sensitive listener, able administrator, friendly person, dedicated caretaker of the administration, sounding board and even, sometimes a punching bag-Fr Ronnie had all these qualities and had kept his promises to serve as a good, God-fearing priest. People compliment him for his loyalty to the Jesuit community, his wonderful gentleness and humor, his smile and friendliness and for the wonderful things he has done for the Jesuit congregation and the community.
Fr Ronnie Prabhu was truly an inspiration to many people, young and old, in his daily interaction with them. The inspiration one gets from a humble person’s declaration of humanness and frailty is taken from Scripture’s words, ” Man does not live on bread alone but by the words of God”. Fr Ronnie had a special way that warmed the hearts of everyone who knew him. And the qualities that made him a wonderful person have left us all with beautiful memories. He respected everyone with dignity and pride, and was courteous and kind to all. He never acted proud of his designation as rector or other higher posts, instead led a very simple designation.
Even though Fr Ronnie has departed, his love is still with us. His life well-lived is a precious gift of hope and strength for someone who has made our world a better, brighter place. It fills us with sweet and bitter memories, with smiles and tears, with friendships formed and good times shared and laughter through the years. Finally, to my beloved priest, my mentor, my friend, and friend of all, my message is , ” Fr Ronnie, your memory is our keepsake with which we’ll never part. God has you in his keeping, but we’ll always have you in our hearts and in our memories. I pray for your happy repose and may you rest in peace”.
Fr Ronnie Prabhu SJ- a Profile :
Fr. Ronnie Prabhu was born on April 9, 1940, at Kodialbail in Mangaluru. He studied at St Aloysius College and joined the Society of Jesus on July 1, 1957. He always secured distinction in studies, and even bagged a gold medal in his master’s degree in philosophy which he completed from Dharwad University. He joined the Society of Jesus as he felt he was a ‘pampered child of God,’ and felt that his life’s mission was to bring love, joy and peace into the hearts of the people.
He was ordained a priest on February 23, 1970. He served as rector of St Aloysius College from 1980 to 1986, and during his tenure, he set up the St Aloysius Boys’ Home and Industrial Technical Institute. In 1986. He took over as rector of St Joseph’s College, Bengaluru and from 1992 to 1998, he served as rector of Mount St Joseph College, Bengaluru. From 1998 to 2004, he was the provincial of Karnataka Jesuits, during which he initiated the Jesuit Mission to Manvi in Raichur and Vijaypura. As provincial he was instrumental in starting a school under the Central Board of Secondary Education for the underprivileged in Raichur district which has now bloomed into a full fledged college.
Fr Ronnie Prabhu served as director of Fatima Retreat House in Mangaluru. He was appointed public relations officer of Bangalore archdiocese three years ago. He was also the spokesperson of the Karnataka Region Catholic Bishops’ Council and the Karnataka Jesuits as well. Fr. Prabhu was known for his interest and passion for development of an interfaith dialogue. In 1970, he set up the Aashirvad (blessing), a center for interfaith dialogue, and conducted annual meets there. He was known for initiating inter-religious dialogue with Aashirvad centre for interfaith dialogue which he set up in 1970 and where conducted annual meets.
Fr Prabhu maintained rapport with leaders of Lingayat and Okkaliga communities and also with Pejawar Swamiji, Dharmasthala Dharmadhikari Dr D Veerendra Heggade and religious heads of other faiths across the state of Karnataka. He served as the rector of St. Aloysius College, Managlore, after the centenary celebrations. He brought in a fresh look that made a lot of difference, starting a Konkani Centre and an Industrial Training Institute. He also served as rector, St. Josephs college Bengaluru, and Mount St. Joseph, a formation center for Jesuits at various times.
Fr Ronnie also found practice of yoga and pranic compatible with the Catholic faith. He had some Buddhist forms of meditation and taught them. He, however, held that he rejected whatever is pantheistic or monastic, whatever does not accept a personal loving Trinitarian God. He was recently nominated for an award for ‘Outstanding Community Leaders of Mangaluru’ which he was to receive sometime this year. At the time of his death, Fr Prabhu was the public relations officer for all the dioceses in Karnataka. Fr Prabhu faced death with a smile. (Profile-Courtesy : India Matters-India’s religious news and Information source)