He was a cherished friend and beloved spiritual leader who lived simply and viewed the natural world as a blessed gift from our creator.
Fr. Christian Mondor, the Franciscan priest and pastor emeritus of Sts. Simon and Jude, passed away in April, just shy of his 93 birthday. Mondor coordinated the annual blessing of the waves in Huntington Beach and was affectionately known as the “Surfing Padre.”
And on a warm, sun-drenched Sunday morning in June, about 300 people gathered at the Huntington Beach Pier for a memorial to celebrate his life.
“He’s a legend in our community,” said Sean Hiller, an avid surfer and Fountain Valley resident who first met Mondor when he was preparing to marry his fiancée, Jennifer. “As a surfer, I had a deep appreciation for his love of the ocean. To be married by a surfing priest seemed so fitting.”
Hiller, who is Jewish, and Jennifer, a Catholic, had looked for priests to marry the couple in an interfaith ceremony. A family member recommended Mondor, who was then parochial vicar at Sts. Simon and Jude in Huntington Beach.
Mondor enthusiastically agreed to perform the ceremony, which was held at the The Waterfront Beach Resort in Huntington Beach.
“It was an incredible honor,” said Hiller, who joined several dozen other surfers for a paddleout honoring Mondor and spent the morning surfing a surprise pulse of head high swell from a hurricane spinning off the coast of Baja California. “Catholicism was new to me and he made us feel comfortable.”
This August, the Hillers will celebrate 19 years of marriage. They have two daughters.
A water enthusiast and competitive swimmer who started longboard surfing when he was 65, Mondor coordinated the Blessing of the Waves, an annual interfaith celebration honoring the ocean attracting surfers and ocean enthusiasts from across the globe.
“Fr. Christian loved people, loved the ocean and loved our natural world,” said Rev. Scott Borgman. “The waves spoke to him. The Blessing of the Waves will be part of his legacy.”
Mondor was named in 2013 a lifetime member of the Huntington Beach Longboard Crew and inducted into the city’s Surfing Walk of Fame Honor Roll.
In his 67 years as a Franciscan priest, Fr. Christian worked tirelessly to preach the Catholic Faith. Franciscans follow the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi, who lived in the 13th century. They detach from material possessions, show affection towards the natural world and work for social justice.
Mondor played an important role in the spiritual development for parishioners at Sts. Simon and Jude and Catholics across Orange County. He was known for delivering informal sermons in the surfing lineup between sets of waves, living simply, playing his banjo and preaching about the importance of loving each other and respecting the natural world.
“His life was a living sermon,” said Alison Bush Kirkpatrick, who grew up attending Sts. Simon and Jude and spoke at Mondor’s memorial. “He could not hide the love he felt for this fiercely beautiful world, or disguise what a blessing he thought it was to be in it. He was rarely without a smile on his face.”