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A Jesuit's Journey:
Fr. Walter Bado, SJ

November, 2022 —  The son of Slovak immigrants, Fr. Walter Bado, SJ, is a first-generation American. His parents left their small village in central Slovakia and came to the United States in the 1920s. Due to immigration quotas at the time, Fr. Bado’s father spent four years in Toronto, Canada, before being able to enter the United States.

Father Bado, who grew up during the Great Depression, remembers the sadness of words he heard during his childhood, such as “layoffs.” His father, a union man, worked for a meat packing warehouse during a time of turmoil.

While his family endured these challenges, Fr. Bado managed to earn a scholarship to attend Chicago’s Saint Ignatius College Prep through the Slovak parish his family belonged to. He acknowledges the parish’s Franciscan sisters influenced his vocation, joking, “They must have seen the nerd in me to send me off to Saint Ignatius.”

In his four years at Ignatius, Fr. Bado recalls being surrounded by wonderful people, and he began to admire the young Jesuits. In his third year, his interest in the Society of Jesus became more evident. His father initially felt concerned for the family name, but his mother was more optimistic, saying, “If it is God’s will, you will become a Jesuit.”

Father Bado’s mother had seen signs of this vocation from an early age. One day, she frantically ran into their small home’s kitchen and found her son laughing joyfully in his highchair while pieces of the ceiling fell on him. At that moment, his mother said, “That boy is going to be a priest.”

After entering the novitiate in 1946, he went on to teach English, Latin, and Greek at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland. To this day, Fr. Bado speaks Slovak, French, German, and Latin and reads Spanish and Italian. After regency, Fr. Bado went to Europe to complete his theology studies at the University of Bonn in Germany. Europe “at times felt like a different world” for Fr. Bado, who spent time in France as well. Returning to the United States in 1971, Fr. Bado taught philosophy at Xavier University in Cincinnati for eight years.

Fr. Walter Bado, SJ
Fr. Bado at Boyd Lake in Kentucky

His own studies in philosophy were briefly delayed because of time spent dedicated to poetry. An accomplished poet for over 60 years, Fr. Bado has written more than 800 poems in his lifetime, with a number of them being published.

In January of 1980, Fr. Bado was asked to start a mission in Kentucky, where he has resided ever since. Father Bado, who has now been in Kentucky for 42 years, spent 28 years serving in campus ministry at the University of Kentucky before retiring. Now, Fr. Bado serves at St. Peter’s Parish in Lexington, where he is “a one-person committee of the preservation of spiritual companionship in the diocese.” In Fr. Bado’s words, spiritual companionship is “when two people let go and open their hearts to one another.” In addition to serving as chaplain of five different groups, Fr. Bado continues to work on his poetry, and he is in contact with a literary agent to get the volumes published. Father Bado also enjoys cooking in his spare time and considers himself blessed as a successful fisherman.

Read more A Jesuit’s Journey articles here.