A Conversation with Departing Catholic Advisor, Father Ed

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Father Ed Windhaus, the Catholic Advisor for the religion communities at the Tri-College Consortium, announced this week that he would be leaving this week for a new post as Pastor of St. James Parish for a community in Montgomery County. Father Ed has been with the Swarthmore community since summer of 2005. Since then, he has played a prominent role in both the religious and non-religious communities here at Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, and Haverford. He lead masses twice a week for each campus and organized mass for holy days, holy week, Ash Wednesday, and other liturgical events. The Daily Gazette sat down with Father Ed to discuss his sudden departure, his experiences at Swarthmore, and his remaining impressions of Swarthmore.

DG: First of all, we’re really sorry to hear that you are leaving our campus. I know that this was rather sudden, can you explain the reasoning behind Philadelphia Clergy Office’s decision?

FEW: I live in two worlds, and I work here as an invited staff member and under all of the boundaries and parameters that the campus has; however, my main boss is the Bishop of Philadelphia and he has a bigger universe than just these three college campuses. There’s a desperate situation in one of the parishes, it’s a financial mess and although nobody is intending anything wrong, people in the parish are very upset and they are very much in need of healing. The present pastor had to take a leave of absence due to his health and they asked me to fill in his position.

The diocese does not work on a college schedule when assigning its priests around, but I just didn’t think it would happen like this. I hoped it would happen over the summer, which is the way I took over father Ames before me. But some things you can’t always see coming and you just have to work with it and do the best you can; it’s a lesson that we all have in life and you can’t plan everything that’s going to happen with you.

DG: In your email announcing your departure to the religious communities at Tri-Co, you said that you fell in love with college ministry. What is different about college ministry and why did it appeal to you so much?

FEW: I love the pursuit of knowledge and I love learning about so many different fields. You can’t be in this kind of academic atmosphere without picking up all kinds of things, such as the faculty lectures. I enjoy the idea of integrating that with the Church’s mission about bringing about the best possible society in this world. I just like the academic pursuit of excellence and trust.

The only [college ministry] experience I’ve had before was at UPenn when I was ordained. It was what you consider an internship and I worked for three years there. That was where I feel in love with the university atmosphere and the role of religion in it. Tri-Co is not Penn, but they all share similar interests and they share the same pursuit of intelligence and academic excellence.

DG: Can you tell us more about your journey to Swarthmore College? How did you end up here?

FEW: I was pastor at a parish and was there for 6 years. My previous assignment was at a parish for 11 years. I was just at the point when I felt I need a breather and I talked to the office clergy and they asked, “What do you want to do?” I told them that I’ve always enjoyed Newman and they came back the next day and told me about this position that was open. John Ames, who was in this previous position and the current director of religion studies and education in the dioceses, was being moved in to the diocese after 6 years, so Tri-Co was in search for someone. I came to my living assignment in june of 2005 in Newtown square and started the fall term of 2005. I think everything came fortuitously together.

Back in the spring of 2010, I was wondering how long my sabbatical is going to go on for and the clergy told me that the colleges seem to be happy with you and you seem to be happy with Tri-Co.

DG: What were your daily duties and obligations here at Tri-Co?

FEW: I guess the primary thing, we have a mission statement on our website and you can see how we define ourselves. With every faith group, there is always prayer and worship component and we also support the students in everything that they are engaged in, to give them encouragement and counseling. However, the Newman definition is to serve the campus, I’ve had faculty and staff who come in and talk over things of concern to them. I’ve had an excellent relationship here. There are issues that come up and the church is looking for opportunities to be a voice in the discussion and offer along ideas along with everyobody else’s.

DG: You mentioned learning about the mysteries of this campus and Haverford and Bryn Mawr. What sort of mysteries about Swarthmore College have you uncovered since your stay here?

FEW: It’s the way things are done, who really runs things here on campus. If you know the right people, you know how to achieve the right guidance and the answer. It doesn’t exist in just the job title, it exists in tradition since they [administrators and faculty] have been here for decades and in the individuals who have practically become institutions in themselves. For mysteries of the campus itself, I don’t think I will ever know the mysteries in student life and I’m not looking for that.

DG: Since the Gazette reaches the entire Swarthmore community, is there anything in particular you would like to share with us?

FEW: I think the most important thing is that this campus, in particular, truly appreciates the gifts that they’ve received. I remember I use this quote frequently from Blessed John Henry Newman, in his monumental work on the idea of a university. He said that all education has a moral component and his idea is that once you have been given so very much, the next question is now, what am I going to do with it for the sake of others. That all I have been given has this string attached to it, and how am I going to use it for the sake of others. It has a lot of different aspects to it, such as stewardship. The purpose is to imbue this idea with students and faculty and I think that’s the main drive that has been with me.

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