Jaroslav (Jary) Vajda (1919-2008) is considered one of the finest American hymn writers of the late 20th century. He translated and authored over 250 hymns, carols, and songs and his work is well represented in current hymnals in the U. S., Canada, England, Germany, and Slovakia. He was named a Fellow of the Hymn Society of the United States and Canada in 1988.
Vajda was born in Lorain, Ohio. In 1944 he received his M. Div. degree from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri. From 1945 until 1963 he was a parish pastor servings congregations in Indiana and Pennsylvania. In 1963 he was called to Concordia Publishing House in St. Louis and served there as editor of This Day magazine and as book developer until his retirement in 1986.
He began writing poetry at age 18, but did not take up translating and writing hymns until age 50, when he was serving on the Commission on Worship of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and on the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship which prepared the Lutheran Book of Worship in 1978.
There are three collections of his hymns and translations—Now the Joyful Celebration (1987) and So Much to Sing About (1991), both from MorningStar Music Publications and Sing Peace, Sing Gift of Peace (2002) from Concordia. CPH also published a hymnal supplement, See This Wonder, which contains 22 of Vajda’s hymns for congregational use.
His texts have been used by many significant choral composers and are published by CPH, MorningStar, Augsburg Fortress, GIA, and Beckenhorst Press.
Pastor Vajda received many honors toward the end of his life including ones from Concordia University Nebraska, Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Concordia University St. Paul, Minnesota, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Eden Seminary, also in St. Louis, Valparaiso University and the Luther Institute in Washington D. C.
He died in May of 2008 and is survived by his wife, Louise (nee’ Mastaglio), his children and grandchildren.
The Center for Church Music is pleased to serve as the archive for his hymn-related writings. Other papers pertaining to his life and career may be found at the Concordia Historical Institute on the grounds of his alma mater, Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.