Father Donald G. Bahlinger, SJ, died Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, at St. Alphonsus Rodriguez Pavilion in Grand Coteau, La. He was 88 years old, a Jesuit for 71 years and a priest for 58 years. He is remembered as a man of zeal and compassion.
His life will be celebrated in a Mass of Christian Burial at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, August 26, at St. Charles College Chapel in Grand Coteau, La. A visitation will be immediately beforehand at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, August 26, also in St. Charles College Chapel. Burial will be at the Jesuit Cemetery at St. Charles College, immediately following the Funeral Mass.
He was born in Baton Rouge, La, on August 24, 1928, to Julius A. Bahlinger, Jr., and Mathilda Fabacher Bahlinger, who preceded him in death. He had six brothers and two sisters. His brothers Julius, Vernon, and Charles and sister, Sr. Kathleen Bahlinger, also died before him. He is survived by his brothers Marion, Reginald and Harold and sister Sr. Barbara Bahlinger.
He was educated at Sacred Heart Grammar School and Catholic High, both in Baton Rouge. After graduation from high school, he entered the Society of Jesus on July 30, 1946 at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau. Following First Vows he studied humanities in Grand Coteau. He continued his studies at Woodstock College in Woodstock, Md. and at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., earning a B.A. in Philosophy and Classics. He studied theology at St. Mary’s College in St. Marys, KS, earning a licentiate in sacred theology. He later earned a Master’s in Counselling at Loyola University in Chicago.
He was ordained to the priesthood on June 17, 1959 in St. Joseph Chapel at Spring Hill College in Mobile.
Fr. Bahlinger was part of two pioneering efforts in the former New Orleans Province, first in Houston and then in Paraguay. He was one of five Jesuits who founded Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, Texas. From 1961 to 1976, he served as director of guidance and was principal there for two years (1970-72). In that first year, in addition to being director of guidance, he also taught Latin, English, religion and speech, and he moderated several extracurricular activities. He is still remembered fondly by Strake alumni, for whom he was an important mentor.
After a sabbatical in 1976-77, he began to focus his tremendous energy on Hispanic ministry. He spent two years working in Guatemala (1977-79) then volunteered to go to Paraguay when that province requested assistance. He would serve there for 16 years in the pastoral ministry, often working with the very poor.
He returned to the U.S. as assistant pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Houston (1996-98), but soon returned to Central America as pastor at San Bartolome in Arcatao, El Salvador (1998-2005).
Returning again to the U.S., he ministered in various places including Our Lady of Guadalupe in San Antonio, Texas, and in the offices of Hispanic Ministries in the Archdioceses of Mobile and New Orleans and the Diocese of Lafayette. He was serving at Sacred Heart Parish in El Paso, Texas, when his failing health dictated that he be missioned to the St. Alphonsus Rodriguez Pavilion in Grand Coteau in 2015.
Fr. Bahlinger sought to serve those most in need; when he saw a situation where there was a greater need, deeper poverty or more challenge than where he was, he wanted to be there. He was happiest serving in pastoral ministry to the poor.