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08/15/2010

One year ago: Father Eleutherius Winance

August 15, 2010 |  6:03 am

WinnaceFather Eleutherius Winance was well known among Catholics for founding the St. Andrew's Abbey in Valyermo and for his longtime job as a philosophy professor at Claremont Graduate University. His dramatic life in China before his Southland days, however, is less known.

Winance, who died one year ago, entered the monastery of St. Andre in his native Belgium when he was 17. In 1936, the year after he was ordained a priest, he was sent to China, where two of his fellow priests had established a monastery in Sichuan province. He later established the Institute of Chinese and Western Cultural Studies in Chengdu.

Governmental upheavals in the 1930s and '40s, however, put his ministry in turmoil. During Mao Tse-tung's communist revolution, his institute was closed down and he and his monk companions were captured and subjected to brutal Marxist indoctrination, an experience he later wrote about in "The Communist Persuasion, A Personal Experience of Brainwashing" (1958). Despite the efforts of his captors, he told The Times in 1963 that he "refused to budge."

Eventually his group was kicked out of the country, and after an arduous trip that he described as hell-like, he ended up in Hong Kong. His abbot then sent Winance to Rome to teach philosophy at Sant' Anselmo.

After teaching in Rome for four years, he came to the United States, where in 1961 he joined eight of his brethren from China at St. Andrew's Priory, which was upgraded to an abbey in 1992.

He was known to be very diligent in his work, rising before dawn for prayer and spending hours reading scripture in Greek or Latin and texts on philosophy and mathematics in French.

"I think it would be fair to say that he would have wanted to be known as a good, faithful and obedient monk," said Father Damien Toilolo, a former administrator of St. Andrew's.

For more, read Father Eleutherius Winance's obituary by The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Father Eleutherius Winance. Credit: John Lewis Photography

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