By Cathy Adamkiewicz
Some people love to talk about diversity. They throw around words like multiculturalism and inclusiveness. They spend much time pondering concepts and developing theories about what makes communities thrive.
Then there are those who live it. PIME Missionary Father Ravi Marneni, is one of those people. Born and raised in India, educated in Italy and the Philippines, living now in the United States, his heart is never far from Hispanic culture and the people he began to love during the time he spent serving as a missionary in Mexico.
Growing up in a small village in Andhra Pradesh, India, Marneni dreamed of a career as a doctor. The nearest hospital was 20 miles away, and his people suffered from a lack of medical care. His young heart was moved by the suffering he witnessed. At the time he didn’t realize that God was planting the seeds of his vocation as a missionary priest.
He went to school and eventually began working for a company that produced materials to be exported to Mid-East oil companies. During this time he visited the seminary with his cousin, who was working at an orphanage, and felt the life of a missionary was now right for him. After all, he had come from a parish run by a priest of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), and was confirmed by a PIME bishop. Marneni was ordained as a priest for PIME in 2003.
Soon after ordination Marneni was sent to Mexico to experience “mission” first-hand. There he learned the language, customs and traditions of the people, not knowing that someday he would use this knowledge in two parishes on the southwest side of Detroit. As associate pastor of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Hedwig churches, Marneni joyfully ministers to a diverse group of families. “My happiest moments are whenever I do baptisms and hear confessions. These moments fill me with great joy.” There are also many challenges. “There are a number of problems but I am positive I can, with the help of the Lord, solve them slowly,” Marneni says.
Marneni is now placing his focus on one area everyone in the parish is passionate about: support for the community’s young people. “The youth can be misled by many things. There are many talented young people and they have a lot of potential, but they need someone to guide them towards the right path.”
Marneni is proactive about making good things happen for young people. He plans to begin a youth group, create teams to lead marriage preparation, and have all of his educators complete formal training.
“Diversity is the beauty of being united despite differences,” Marneni says. “Every time we say the Lord’s Prayer we are reminded that we are all one family under the protection of the one and only heavenly Father.”
Are you afraid of differences? What have you learned from other cultures and other races?