May 12, 2020 – The Jesuit Spotlight shines a light on dedicated men and women who have answered God’s goal to serve, whether priests or brothers in the Society of Jesus or else lay ministers, teachers or administrators in Jesuit missions.
Dr. Sajit Kabadi
Where: Regis Jesuit High School in Denver
What: Assistant Principal for Mission, Ministry & Diversity; Theology teacher
Hometown: Bronx, N.Y.
Education: Brophy College Prep, a Jesuit high school in Phoenix; Saint Louis University, 1996, bachelor in psychology, with theology minor; Loyola University in Chicago, 2000, master’s of religious education; University of Denver, master’s in intercultural/international communications; University of Colorado in Denver, 2014, doctorate in educational leadership and innovation
Family: Wife – Heidi; children — Mary (Meera), Teresa (Tara), Ella (Leela)
When did the Jesuit influence begin in your life?
The Jesuits’ influence on me probably predates me. My grandfather and my great-grandfather worked in a Jesuit Institution in Mumbai, India – Xavier College. They were Hindu, which says a lot about the Jesuits’ influence in my life, at least on the Hindu side of my family, my father’s side. My mom is Catholic, and my dad is an adult Catholic convert. I attended Catholic schools growing up, and when we moved from Des Moines to Phoenix in 1988 before my freshman year, my dad’s the one who noticed one of the Catholic high schools (Brophy College Prep) was Jesuit. He said, “You need to take a look at these Jesuits.” That’s where it all began.
How did that influence grow?
From then on, it was pretty much Jesuit education. I went to Saint Louis University and that’s where the Jesuits really formed me. You have a lot of questions at that age about your faith, the meaning of life and so on. The Jesuits are very accessible there, so I was able to ask those questions and have those conversations, which inspired me to major in psychology and minor in theology. After graduation, a couple of Jesuits pointed me to the Alum Service Corps. It intrigued me to go to a Jesuit high school and give back. I applied right after graduation in 1996, then got cold feet, took the year off and ended up working that year in St. Louis. But the Jesuits didn’t give up on me and let the spirit kind of flow, and so when I went back to Jesuit Fathers Frank Reale and Chris Pinné only a few month into that fall of 1996 to tell him I made a mistake, they basically pulled out my file and said, “OK, let’s talk about next year.” I did the Alumni Service Corp the following year at SLUH, and that was an incredible year, one of the most formative years of my life.
Dr. Kabadi spent the 1997-98 school year teaching at St. Louis University High School, along with two other alumni volunteers. They formed what he called a “pretty close bond” with the Jesuit community, including Jesuit Fathers Paul Sheridan, Jim Knapp, Bart Geger and Ralph Houlihan. Dr. Eric Clark, Rob Garavaglia, and principal Bob Bannister also had a major impact on him, especially Bannister – both in his pursuit of a Master’s degree and his move to Denver and Regis Jesuit.
How did Dr. Bannister influence you?
Bob Bannister encouraged me to get my Master’s degree at Loyola University Chicago. I did not want to leave SLU High. I really wanted to stay and work there, but he gave me that extra nudge and said, “We’ll be here.” After I got my Master’s two years later, he told me there’d be a job open at SLU High, but I had an inkling there might be something at Regis Jesuit High, too. Being who he is, Bob had Fr. Jim Knapp call Regis Jesuit the day of my interview to speak to Fr. Jim Burshek, theology chair at the time, to see if I could interview there, too. I went through the process at Regis Jesuit and then had a major discernment, whether to go back to St. Louis or go to Denver. It was challenging conversation with Bob Bannister to tell him “no.” I felt bad, but he was terrific. He said, “Go to Denver. We’ll still be here, of course, but it sounds like you need to go to Denver and see what’s there for you.” I did, and I’m still here! The way he treated me and worked with me embodies the Jesuits values of discernment, spiritual indifference and elections and so on. That left an indelible imprint on me.”
Dr. Kabadi describes his move there as a “godsend.” He has spent nearly 20 years in Denver, with two stints totaling 15 years at Regis Jesuit and five years at Regis University, where he was Diversity Coordinator for the Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs. At Regis Jesuit, he has taught theology, served as diversity director, coached basketball and chaired the Theology Department. While at Regis U, he also served on the high school’s Board of Trustees. In addition to marriage and raising a family, he also found time to earn another Master’s, at the University of Denver, then a doctorate at the University of Colorado in Denver. For the past two years, he’s been Regis Jesuit’s Assistant Principal of Mission, Ministry, and Diversity.
Tell us about your new role
The Board of Trustees and President of Regis Jesuit wanted diversity to be integral to the Catholic Jesuit mission, where all aspects of mission intermingle with aspects of diversity, inclusion and equity, all social justice issues. One of the tension points of diversity is we have to balance the tension of being distinctly who we are and yet inclusive. Those tensions are healthy tensions, which I think the Jesuits have done in their history and continue to do as well as anybody I know of. I would argue that I’m part of Regis Jesuit High School because of that being integral to the Jesuits mission. It’s inherently Catholic as well. That aspect of ecumenism and being the universal Church, I think the Jesuits epitomize that and their history epitomizes that. I think what draws me to Jesuits and their mission is their ability and courage to be on the front lines and right at those tension points with a spirit of freedom, adventure, hope and ultimate faith.