What a delight to read the article about Daniel Rondeau, the new vicar at St. Hugh’s. I wanted to add some personal comments about Father Dan.
Before his forced retirement due to illness, Dan was the beloved associate rector at St. Margaret’s in Palm Desert, and in his pastoral care role, had ministered to the 3,000-plus members since 1993. He was a stabilizing force, supporting the congregation through many ups and downs and difficult changes in leadership.
I first met Father Dan in the spring of 2008 when he became my spiritual director. We met weekly through that summer, and then one fall morning I received a call from the church secretary who told me he had fallen ill and needed to cancel our appointment.
The news about this vigorous leader (and avid mountain-climber) shocked the congregation. His prognosis became worse as the weeks and months wore on. Though we prayed for his recovery, and hoped for a miracle, it seemed unlikely. We were already grieving, expecting the worst.
More than a year later came the surprising announcement that he had come out of the coma, was able to speak, and, in fact, was so delighted with his ability to talk that he was busy catching up by phone with just about everyone he knew.
My husband, Tom Tefft, and I were renting in Idyllwild that summer, and one day in July when we checked our phone in Palm Desert for messages, I recognized Father Dan’s voice. I could have turned cartwheels around the living room. I still smile at his opening line: “Diane, I’m so sorry we had to postpone our last meeting, but I’ve been ill ...”
After many months of rehab and hard work for both Father Dan and Carol — who he says is the true hero in his story — he again became my spiritual director. I continue to treasure his wisdom, compassion, strength and the amazing, contagious joy he takes in life.
Tom and I lived in Idyllwild full-time for 12 years, part-time for a few more, and now visit as often as we can. We consider Idyllwild our home away from home, and St. Hugh’s our spiritual home. Though we miss Father Dan and Carol in the desert, we couldn’t be happier that they and the congregation at St. Hugh’s are such a great fit.