Father Hugh Wade passes away

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register

It would be difficult to find someone in Ballinger whose life wasn't touched in some way by St. Mary Star of the Sea's retired priest, Father Hugh Wade. From his work with the Ballinger Ministerial Alliance to guiding his parish and their missions to help others over the years, Wade was a central figure in "doing for others." Father Wade, who continued to live in Ballinger after his retirement in 2016, passed away last week in San Angelo.

Father Wade was ordained over 40 years ago, serving in the Vietnam war, both as a service man and a chaplain. He continued his service until 1996, when he retired from the service and was assigned to St. Mary Star of the Sea in Ballinger.

When he retired from St. Mary's in 2016, clergy from across the San Angelo Diocese came to Ballinger to celebrate mass at St. Mary’s to honor Wade for his dedication and service. The mass was led by Bishop Michael Sis, who heads the San Angelo Diocese. At the retirement ceremony in 2016, Bishop Sis called Wade’s assignment to St. Mary’s in Ballinger “a match made in heaven.” “Over the years of his ministry there, he has become an integral part of the community among both Catholics and non-Catholics,” Sis said. “At his retirement dinner, when he addressed the group gathered there, I was sitting next to him, so I could see the crowd’s faces as he spoke. I saw nothing but intense love and affirmation in their faces. This is the fruit of a life well lived. This is the result of a man pouring out his life in humble and generous service.”

Throughout his ministry in Ballinger and surrounding communities, Wade has been involved in numerous events, including Memorial Day services, the Parish Pantry, the Ministerial Alliance, American Legion, Ballinger Noon Lions Club and the Salvation Army.

In a 2016 interview at his retirement, Wade said his fondest memories were riding a longhorn steer in a parade and riding up to the church for mass on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, “I remember all of the community being so kind to me,” Wade said.

Father Wade was victorious twice in his battle against cancer. In a 2015 interview with West Texas Angelus, Father Wade spoke of his battle against cancer, "I have melanoma,” he said. “And the biopsy showed the cancer was already in my bloodstream.” Father Wade would come out of that battle victorious.

A few years prior to his battle against melanoma, Father Wade fought Large B-cell Lymphoma. In both of his battles, members of his parish took turns driving him to M.D. Anderson in Houston for his treatments. In the Angelus article, Father Wade spoke about returning from one of those trips, finding that his parishioners had a surprise for him, “Once when we went to M.D. Anderson, the guys at the parishes came in and built ramps all around the church property. I came back and said, ‘What is this, a skateboard park’,” Fr. Wade laughed. “I got in my wheelchair and on my scooter and was able to get all around the church, thanks to the parishioners."

In 2016, Father Wade gave an interview for the Runnels County Register, in celebration of Memorial Day. His father,  Hubert Wade, Sr, served in in the navy and was Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. Father Wade followed the family tradition of military service.

Father Hugh Wade, who served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, holds a photo of his father, Hubert Wade, Sr., who served in the U.S. Navy and was stationed at Pearl Harbor at the time of the Japanese attack on December 7, 1942.

According to the 2016 newspaper article: "The senior Wade, joined the U.S. Navy in 1940 as his son recalled. He would sign up in Knotts Island, Virginia. And would be assigned to work and repair aircraft. Wade said his father liked the freedom the Navy gave him, especially early on, when he was a single sailor, traveling to different places.

'His favorite was Cuba,' Wade recalled.

He would meet his future wife while stationed in Detroit, Mich. where she was a volunteer ambulance driver. By this time, men were being drafted to serve in what would be World War II so women were taking jobs normally held by men.

After they were married, Hubert Sr. and his wife Dorothy would go to Virginia, where he was deployed to serve on one of eight U.S. battleships stationed in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. While he was away, he made a promise to his wife – that he would go to church.

So, on the evening of Dec. 6, 1941, Hubert Wade, Sr. departed the ship and headed to the barracks at the base, planning to attend church the next morning.

But, as history tells, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor Dec. 7 at 7:48 a.m. the next morning. But the elder Wade was not on his ship."

Wade Sr, would end up serving 30 years in the Navy, following that up with a 20-year career in Civil Service for the Navy.

In 1965, Father Wade signed up for the army while attending Old Dominion University in  Norfolk, Virginia.

The article went on to describe Father Wade's service in Vietnam, "Wade was assigned to a specific branch of the army called the 'Signal Security Agency,' where his duty was to intercept enemy signals, analyze them and report the findings to officers on the front lines."

'We had to find out how many of them (Vietnamese) there were, where they were going and what they were going to do,' Wade explained.

Wade would spend 18 months in Pubai, Vietnam, on the base and out in the field.

'One my friends who died – I was holding him in my arms when he expired,' Wade said.

Wade would go on to re-up for another six moths and would then return to the states where he had made the decision to go to seminary to become a Catholic priest.

He said he made the decision to pursue the priesthood because his faith in humanity had been lost while he was in Vietnam.

'I had lost some of my compassion for people,' Wade said. 'You never knew who the enemy was. It was dangerous everywhere.'

He would attend seminary at Oblate College Seminary in Washington, D.C. where he was ordained May 13, 1977 – 39 years ago.

Like his father before him, Wade would return to the Army serving as a chaplain until 1996, retiring as a major.