Thursday, June 9, 2011
Fr. Edward Whelan-- Half Century of Mission
Fr. Edward Whelan was ordained in 1961. He went on for a doctorate in English and spent his first years in the States teaching Maryknoll seminarians. When interviewed by the Peace Weekly, he mentioned that he had been deeply moved while in the seminary when hearing Monsignor George Carroll talk of his experiences in North Korea. As the vicar apostolic of Pyongyang before the Korea War, Monsignor Carroll, remembering the tragedy of the war, broke down during the talk; this poignant display of compassion still remains in Fr. Ed's memory. His desire to emulate Carrol's deeply felt experience in Korea bore fruit when the seminary was closed soon after for lack of vocations and he was allowed to go to Korea. After learning the language and serving as an assistant in Cheongju, he became the pastor of the Naisu parish.
During his time in parish work, he realized the difficulty mentally handicapped children were having living normal lives and the trial it was for their parents. He decided to do something about it, making a study of the situation and what others were doing, even spending time in Canada with Jean Vanier, the founder of the L'Arche Movement.
In 1982 he founded and was the director of Galilee House in Cheongju for the mentally disabled. Turning the work over to Korean Sisters, he moved on to China in 1992 to continue working for the mentally disabled, as well as teaching English in several colleges.
He returned to Korea in 2002 and worked with the foreign workers residing in Korea, before retiring. However, he continued working in the field, and in 2008 started the Peace Hope Center for the mentally disabled where he now works as director.
Looking back on his priestly life of fifty years, many may be tempted to say that the life of a missioner is difficult. But for Fr. Ed the joys of such a life were all the more gratifying. He thanks God for the many blessings received, and as long as he remains in good health, he says he hopes to continue living in Korea.
He is now back in the States where he will be celebrating the 50th anniversary with his classmates and with others ordained 25 and 40 years ago at the Center in Ossining, New York.