The Southern Cross The Southern Cross

Read the latest edition. Latest edition

Dutch migrant true to his calling


Father Edward Welling - Born: September 1 1938 | Died: April 28 2023

Print article

Edward was born in the Netherlands on the day that Germany invaded Poland. The fifth of 11 children, he grew up in a very strong Catholic family and attended the local Catholic primary school in Roermond in the predominantly Catholic province of Limburg.

His parents were great models of faith to him and as a result, from an early age he wanted to become a priest. As he grew older, the Holy Ghost Fathers and their commitment to missionary work attracted him and he began his secondary education at the Order’s Minor Seminary in a neighbouring town.

He was destined for the wilds of Africa if he continued down this path but his father, a carpenter, decided to join the growing numbers departing for Australia, lured by assisted passage and the prospect of better job opportunities.

Edward was 16 when he and his family arrived in Fremantle in 1958. As the largest family on the ship, the local media in Fremantle and then Port Melbourne lined them up for a photo opportunity to promote the Government’s migration program.

The Wellings took the train to Adelaide, where they were greeted with a similar fanfare, and with the help of the local parish priest at Port Adelaide they found temporary housing before saving enough for a deposit for a large house at Semaphore.

The Archdiocesan Vocations director, Fr Luke Roberts, heard about Edward’s interest in a vocation and within a short time Archbishop Matthew Beovich was delighted to enrol him in St Francis Xavier Seminary to continue his journey to the priesthood.

After his ordination on June 27 1964 Fr Eddie (as he was widely known) was appointed to Elizabeth South parish, a new migrant area to the north of Adelaide where he worked as an assistant priest to Fr Pierce Murphy.

In 1970 he went from Elizabeth to Kurralta Park (now Plympton parish) and was appointed as assistant priest to Mgr Michael Dunn. The presbytery he moved into was an old building next to St Joseph’s Church on South Road. It was full of large cracks in the brickwork where he had to stuff rags and newspapers to keep out the draught.

His next appointment was a six-month stint as acting parish priest in Edwardstown while Fr Bill Collins was away on a visit to Ireland.

An opportunity arose to go to the country and Fr Eddie accepted an appointment to Maitland on Yorke Peninsula. He found it rewarding as it was a typical country parish of the time, involving lots of driving but filled with country hospitality. Every Sunday parishioners took it in turn to invite the parish priest home for lunch.

In 1980 Fr Eddie came back to the city to serve at Glenelg as assistant to Fr John Chambers, (who died just a few weeks after Fr Eddie on May 12). It was a large parish and Fr Eddie concentrated on the Glengowrie area, making lots of home visits and keeping in touch with the families in that part of the parish. When that was largely completed, he moved on to the Glenelg North section.

In 1983 Fr Eddie took up his responsibilities once more as parish priest of Woodville. He had two other priests with him in the parish, Fr Charles Gauci (now Bishop of Darwin) as an assistant priest and Fr Peter de Vries as assistant and chaplain to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. It was another big parish with four Catholic primary schools and Siena Secondary College, creating more responsibilities and pastoral care.

After six years in Woodville, Fr Eddie was appointed to Gawler parish in 1989. He had barely settled in when in 1991 he was instrumental in laying the foundation for a new school in the town and the subsequent establishment of Xavier College. He also made an effort to keep in touch with people in the outlying areas of the parish such as Lyndoch, Williamstown and the outskirts of Barossa Valley. With the assistance of Sr Dorothy Eveston, a Good Samaritan Sister, as pastoral associate, he was instrumental in exploring a family-based approach to sacramental preparation of children within the parish.

In January 1996 he returned to Edwardstown as parish priest and, together with pastoral associate Pauline Victory, again established a truly family-based sacramental program.

Fr Eddie’s last parish was Aberfoyle Park to which he moved in June 2003. It was a quiet area after the hustle and bustle of South Road and he set about ministering to the people once more. With the continued help of Pauline Victory as pastoral associate he was able to maintain the sacramental life of the parish until his retirement in September 2013 at the age of 75. For the next two years he continued his chaplaincy to the Catholic Women’s League which began in 2008.

When he wasn’t serving his people, Fr Eddie was a voracious reader. Whenever he had a spare moment he would grab a newspaper, magazine or book and begin to devour it. His depth of knowledge and wide-ranging interests in the field of literature and his general knowledge were greatly admired by his fellow clergy. Many a time he would come out with some insight or observation that was totally unexpected and often quite illuminating.

He enjoyed the countryside and while he was based at Elizabeth South he went on several trips to the Outback and the east coast with Fr Leon Czechowicz, who was recently ordained and assisting at Elizabeth North at the time.

The two priests reconnected when Fr Eddie was stationed in Gawler and Fr Leon was parish priest in neighbouring Virginia. With Fr George Nader, they began holidaying together in such far flung places as Darwin, the Gold Coast, Canberra (for the floral festival), Melbourne and New Zealand.  Their last interstate trip was to Sydney for the 2000 Olympics.

In 2001 the trio also began an annual pilgrimage to Kangaroo Island for a time of prayer and reflection as well as an opportunity for friendship, rest and relaxation. The locals warmly welcomed “the three amigos” when they came to do supply.

Upon retirement, Fr Eddie moved to Francis Murphy Villa and commenced his ‘retirement ministry’ with Southern Cross Care.  He celebrated Mass once a month at Oaklands, and each Friday at The Pines, Conifer Unit. In 2015, on the feast of Pentecost, he started his Sunday Mass ministry at Bucklands, and was always available to visit, anoint and support residents.

He continued his Bucklands and Pines duties until COVID hit, and during 2020 his health declined. In May 2021 he moved to Bucklands as a resident and he remained there until he died peacefully on April 28. He was much loved by staff and residents, and will be sadly missed.

Taken from the eulogy by Fr Leon Czechowicz

More Obituaries stories

Loading next article