Father Ralph J. Drendel, SJ, died December 2, 2012 at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center, Los Gatos, after a long illness. He was 90, a Jesuit for 72 years, and a priest for 59 years.
Father Drendel was born in San Francisco on August 2, 1922, the son of Joseph Drendel and Erna Lohmann Drendel. He graduated from St. Ignatius High School in 1940 and entered the Jesuit novitiate at Los Gatos. He received an MA in philosophy from Gonzaga University, taught mathematics at Bellarmine College Prep, San Jose, 1947-50, made his theological studies at Alma College, and was ordained a priest in 1953.
Upon completion of studies, he was assigned to the Superior General’s office in Rome, where he served as sub-secretary for the American provinces, 1955-59. Returning to the United States, he was named director of novices for the California Province at Sacred Heart Novitiate, Los Gatos, a post he held until 1963 when he became Rector and director of novices at the newly established novitiate in Santa Barbara. In 1967 he returned to Rome for a year of theological studies. He welcomed a return to the high school classroom as teacher of religion at Loyola High School, Los Angeles, 1968-70. This was followed by more theological studies in Rome, where he also served as a spiritual director for the Christian Brothers formation program.
In 1972 he returned to high school ministry, as teacher of mathematics and religion at St. Ignatius Prep, San Francisco. In 1976 he became principal of Bishop Manogue High School, Reno, where he earned the reputation of being a firm, no-nonsense academic leader. In 1983 he accepted a similar position at Bishop Kelly High School, Boise, a post he held until 1986, when he left administration for the classroom as teacher of mathematics and computer science at Bellarmine Prep (1986-98; 1999-2000).
Father Drendel was asked to serve as director of novices for a new but short-lived religious community, Cor Jesu, in Denver, 1998-99. He also served as a spiritual director for seminarians of the Denver Archdiocese, 2000-2008, a time he described as among the happiest of his life. With the advancement of his Parkinson’s Disease, he retired to Sacred Heart Jesuit Center, where he received a steady stream of visits from his former seminarians.
Father Drendel was a very spiritual man who was able to communicate his love of Christ, the church and the Society of Jesus in an effective way. He was energetic: in his years at Los Gatos novice director, he would join as his young charges in the annual grape harvest. An associate recalled, “Even at his age, he could outrun and outpick any of the younger men.”
Over the years, Fr. Drendel gave countless retreats, conferences, and summer institutes to many communities of women religious. He was an esteemed counselor and spiritual director and an effective high school teacher who had a lasting impact on those who knew him.
He described himself as a traditionalist. Although uncomfortable with many changes in the Church, Fr. Drendel was determined to hold to his strong loyalties “to Christ and the principles of St. Ignatius Loyola.”
He was predeceased by a brother, Herbert Drendel. He is survived by a niece, Leslie Limpert of San Rafael.