Dan Rondeau has assumed the helm as vicar at St. Hugh of Lincoln Episcopal Church located across from Fern Valley Road and South Circle Drive (the church entrance is on Tahquitz Drive). In the Episcopal faith, a vicar is a member of the clergy in charge of a chapel.
Father Dan, as he is known to many, replaced the retiring vicar, Gordon Scheible. According to Fr. Dan, Fr. Scheible would come to Idyllwild twice monthly to celebrate the Eucharist with the congregation. Idyllwild residents and St. Hugh’s attendees Diane Noble and Tom Taft suggested in 2011 that Fr. Dan celebrate the Eucharist with the congregation once a month. Toward the end of 2012, the relationship had progressed and Fr. Dan found himself coming up to Idyllwild from his home in Palm Desert more often.
“In 2013, Gordon announced that he was retiring … and was going to move back to his native Texas, so they should really start thinking about who they would like to have as a vicar,” said Fr. Dan. “It was pretty quickly decided that we should ask Dan to come up,” speaking about himself. At the time of his appointment to vicar, Fr. Dan was retired due to disability, but the St. Hugh’s congregation was willing to work with Fr. Dan whose mind is unaffected by the disability.
In 2008, Fr. Dan woke one Saturday morning to numbness in his feet. “I thought, ‘Well that’s odd,’ but I didn’t think a whole lot of it. By the end of the day that numbness was all the way up to my knees. I thought, ‘I still don’t know what’s happening, but I can walk and carry on.’ It’s just odd, an odd feeling. When I woke up on Sunday morning, the numbness was all the way up to my waist and I said, ‘OK, something is really wrong here, I wonder what it is,’ and it was on both sides. After two weeks at Eisenhower [in Rancho Mirage], I was put on a ventilator and had a tube to feed me and then I was transferred to a hospital in Ontario. Over the months there, I just got worse and worse and worse; in fact, my family was called three times. ‘You know, we don’t think he’s going to make it. You might want to come in and say your goodbyes.’
The initial diagnosis was Guillain-Barré Syndrome which was later revised to Mononeuritis Multiplex. After spending 13 months hospitalized and near total paralysis (at one point in his treatment, all he could do was blink his eyes), Fr. Dan continues his miraculous recovery. “With the Mononeuritis, it’s a wide spectrum; there’s either very little recovery, or like me, again, I am the exception. Most people still have to use a wheelchair or something. It leaves them permanently disabled,” said Fr. Dan. “I feel like a miracle; very fortunate and definitely that has impacted how I am as a priest. That experience is profound. I feel very blessed, very grateful everyday just to be alive.”
Fr. Dan and wife, Carol, had always dreamed of living in the mountains. “We thought it would be Julian in San Diego County, so our dream and the need of the people at St. Hugh’s kind of met there and that was a great thing,” said Fr. Dan gratefully. “They said, ‘Why don’t you come on up,’ and we said, ‘We’d love to, in fact, we’re going to live in Idyllwild.’ So that really sealed it.”
Services are every Sunday at 10 a.m. and all are welcome. For more information on activities and events at St. Hughes visit www.sthughsidyllwild.org.