A Short Biography of 100 years of Father Eleutherius’ Life
Compiled by Will Mittendorf
MA student in philosophy
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Reverend Joseph Eleutherius Winance, O.S.B., PhD. was born in Mons, Belgium on July 10, 1909 and baptized on July 11, 1909. Father Eleutherius attended Jesuit schools until, at the young age of seventeen, he joined the Order of St. Benedict. He entered into the Abbey of St. André in Brugge, Belgium in 1927 and became a professed a monk in 1929. He then studied Philosophy at the University of Louvain, where he received his Doctorate in 1934, graduating with the highest honors. One year later he was ordained by the church.
In 1936 his Abbot requested he travel to China as a missionary. Father Eleutherius journeyed across Europe and Asia via the Tran-Siberian railroad, and joined his fellow monks at the Priory of St. André in Si’shan, the daughter-house of St. André in Brugge, founded in 1927. In addition to ministering, Father Eleutherius taught philosophy at the Protestant West China Union University and the Szechwan Provincial Academy of Arts from 1945 to 1950 and at the National Szechwan University in China from 1947 to 1948.
As a result of bombings by the Japanese in 1947, Father Eleutherius and the monks at St. Andre were forced to move from rural Si’shan to the urban city of Chengtu. The monks spent five years there until the Communists came to power. In 1952 the monks were tried, condemned, and expelled from China. Father Eleutherius remained in China for a year and a half under Communist rule. He was subjected to “re-education” three times per week before he was finally released to Hong Kong.
Father Eleutherius returned to Brugge where his Abbot immediately sent him to Rome. From 1952 to 1956 he taught philosophy at St. Johns College, Collegeville, Minnesota until 1961. At that time Father Eleutherius rejoined his priory at St. André (now St. Andrew’s) in Valyermo, California. He began teaching at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles and for the Sisters of Social Service in Encino.ant Anselmo. In 1954 he returned to the Far East as a French/Chinese language interpreter for an international commission against slave labor camps under J. Edgar Hoover. In 1956 he was sent by his Abbot to America where he became a professor of philosophy at
In 1963, Pomona professor Frederick Sontag visited Valyermo and requested that Father Eleutherius teach in Claremont. In his first year, Father Eleutherius taught the history of philosophy at Pomona College and a class on Thomas Aquinas at Claremont Graduate University. During his tenure at Pomona College, from 1963 to 1980, and at Claremont Graduate University from 1963 to 2002, Father Eleutherius taught many classes such as the Medieval Philosophy, Phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty, Husserl and Heidegger, Systematic Theology, Gabriel Marcel, Kant, “The Concept of Consciousness,” and on Descartes’ Meditations. Over the course of his life Father Eleutherius has taught classes in Latin, French, English and Chinese. He also reads German and Greek.
Father Eleutherius presided over mass in the student center each Tuesday at five o’clock, earning him the nickname, Father Tuesday. In 1974 to 1975 Father Eleutherius went to India to teach philosophy and preach at St Paul’s Pontifical Seminary Institute of Philosophy and Theology, Bangalore. In 1980, 1981 and again in 1984, he went to The Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) to teach philosophy at St. Paul’s Pontifical Seminary, Lubumbashi.
Even after his retirement from Claremont Graduate University in 2002, Father Eleutherius continued to preach at the Challenger Juvenile Camp in Antelope Valley, the Lancaster State Prison, and Retirement Manor. Currently, he resides at St. Andrew’s Abbey in Valyermo California where he preaches, tends to his garden and entertains many visitors.
Photos courtesy of Dr. Francesca Bero