'Father Dan' Settles Into New Congregation

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Thursday was Daniel Tantimonaco's third day as the new vicar at St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

Although he has not had time to do much more than place photos of his family on his desk, he sits easy in his chair, as if the office has been his for years.

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"God has been my best friend my whole life," said Dan Tantimonaco, the new vicar at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. He is looking forward to making new friends and meeting his congregation.

"Being in a small parish will be wonderful," Tantimonaco said.

"We are looking forward to being here a long time," he said of himself, his wife of almost 13 years, Roberta and their children, 11-year-old Janine, and Anthony, 9.

Tantimonaco said he and Roberta are "thrilled" they are going to be able to share the parades and picnic and all a small town has to offer with their children.

Tantimonaco came to Payson by way of Connecticut, Florida and Texas.

He grew up in Bridgeport, Conn. in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. Like most of his peers, he played baseball and football.

But his favorite thing to do was walk the two miles to St. Margaret's Shrine, where he would sit and pray.

"There was a grotto with waterfalls and statues," he said.

He would stay past dark sometimes even though he got into trouble for it at home.

When Tantimonaco was a freshman in high school his dad decided to move the family out of the city to more rural Newton.

"I was complaining to my dad about the separation from my friends while we were unpacking and he told me to go take a walk and come back with a better attitude," he said. "Our house was on a dead end street that led into the woods."

Into the wood he went, missing his friends, St. Margaret's Shrine and his city life, grumbling to God about the situation with each step. He journeyed deeper into the woods and all of a sudden the trees opened onto a babbling brook and the shafts of sunlight streaking down on the water were beautiful.

"I don't think I have ever felt the presence of God more than I did in that moment," Tantimonaco said. "I knew everything was going to be alright."

Raised as a Roman Catholic, Tantimonaco said by age ten he felt called to the priesthood, but his Italian parents weren't supportive of the idea. They wanted him to get a job, get married and raise a family. So, he did.

Tantimonaco met his wife Roberta when he moved to Florida in 1992.

He worked as the director of financial and management services for Florida Medical Management Consultants.

While in college to become a physical therapist, Roberta took a world religions class. The instructor steered them to St. Mary Magdalene's Episcopal when he found out they were looking for a church to join.

It was an inspirational fit and got Tantimonaco thinking about the priesthood again.

"With the support of my wife, the call came roaring back," he said.

In August 2002 the couple sold their home and moved to Austin, Texas so he could attend the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest.

After Tantimonaco's graduation in May 2005, Bishop Smith in Arizona offered him a year-long position at the Trinity Cathedral as a canon associate.

His last day at the Trinity Cathedral was July 31.

Attracting more families and people to St. Paul's and developing Sunday School services for youth will be the first focus of "Father Dan."

Adding some alternative services are also part of his plans.

"I feel very comfortable giving traditional liturgy and contemporary services," he said.

A contemporary service, "that keeps our traditions but gets away from pew aerobics," perhaps with guitar and piano music, may be offered on Saturday evenings.

"At St. Mary's in Florida, kids played violins and flutes at one service," he said.

"Taize," a time for contemplation and quiet with candle and soft music is another Sunday evening service he would like to introduce.

Tantimonaco said he wants to get involved ecumenically with other church leaders in Payson and find out other ways St. Paul's can reach out to the community.

-- To reach Carol La Valley call 474-5251 ext. 122 or e-mail clavalley@payson.com.

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