Sunday, December 31, 2017
Ana Rodriguez Soto - Florida Catholic newspaper
This article has been updated as more information became available.
MIAMI | Father Brendan Dalton, pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Hollywood for the past 26 years, died early in the morning of Dec. 31, while in the care of Catholic Hospice. He was 73, and had served as a priest in the Archdiocese of Miami for 48 years.
He is survived by his younger brother, Father Bryan Dalton, also an archdiocesan priest and current pastor of St. Ambrose Church, Deerfield Beach.
“My heart is broken,” said Barbara Asfendis, “because he won’t be around any more to tell me, ‘Barbara, you’re a piece of work,’ which I took as a compliment until I heard him say that to everyone else. But I loved his spirituality, his dedication to St. Bernadette.”
Asfendis has been a parishioner there since 1989, two years before Father Dalton became pastor. She is president of the parish’s Council of Catholic Women and past president of the Miami Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women.
She described Father Dalton as “very supportive of everything we do. He wore a Panama hat to our tea one time because I told him he had to wear a hat.”
Father Dalton self-published a book for his parishioners on the 40th anniversary of his ordination. It was called, “Walking with Jesus… Everyday. A year in the life of a priest.”
The author’s description on the back cover describes him as “the heart of St. Bernadette Parish,” and cites his “inexhaustible zeal and energy.”
“He has molded us into a parish family, always seeking new ways to serve, desiring greater holiness for us all, instilling pride in ourselves as Catholics and in the accomplishments that we have achieved together,” the description states. “He is truly our priest, our pastor, our leader and our friend.”
Fred Maas, police chief of Sunny Isles Beach, is also a St. Bernadette parishioner. But his family’s relationship with Father Dalton stretches back to one of the priest’s earliest assignments, at Sacred Heart Church in Homestead just a year after his ordination. Maas’ parents and their seven children were parishioners. His mother was a native of Ireland.
“Over the next 47 years, he baptized, married, heard confessions, and gave Eucharist, including first Holy Communion, to four generations of our family,” Maas wrote in an email to the Florida Catholic. “He was so proud of the fact that on Sunday mornings he would have three generations of Maas family members on the altar serving in various roles.”
Maas added that Father Dalton always offered his services as chaplain to local police officers “and would always encourage their efforts in tough times.” He called him a “truly a compassionate and caring priest.”
“He rarely forgot anyone and people rarely forgot him,” Maas added.
Joan Crown, archdiocesan director of the Respect Life Office, also is a longtime parishioner of St. Bernadette.
“Father had been ill for many months,” she said. “Walking into Mass on Sunday I commented to my husband that if Father Dalton had any strength at all he would have made an appearance at Christmas.”
Among her most moving personal experiences with Father Dalton is one with her granddaughter, who has a condition called selective mutism. “She was not able to speak in public from a very young age.”
When she was preparing for first Communion, however, Father Dalton came into her religious education class and asked who would like to sing with him on the altar during the ceremony.
“My granddaughter's hand shot up. The teacher didn't know what to say, but my daughter said let's try. At the first rehearsal, our whole family was in the pew waiting to see what would happen. Father Dalton put the microphone to her mouth and she sang loud and clear. We all began to cry because this was the first time she uttered a sound in public,” Crown said. They sang “Do You Love Jesus.”
Father Dalton also took Crown to the Holy Land as a thank you for all her years in respect life ministry. “The pilgrimage was life-changing thanks to Father Dalton's very personal attention to each and every person, making sure our experience was one of the most holy times in our lives,” she recalled. “I will miss him.”
Born in Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland, on Sept. 14, 1944, Father Dalton attended high school at St. Clement’s College in Limerick with the Redemptorist priests. He was ordained in his native Ireland June 8, 1969, one of three Irish priests ordained that year for the Archdiocese of Miami.
He and his brother, Bryan, followed in the footsteps of two uncles, Father Jimmy Dalton and Father John Dalton, who both served in the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky.
Father Brendan Dalton served as parochial vicar at St. Matthew, Hallandale (1969-70), Sacred Heart, Homestead (1970-73), St. Bartholomew, Miramar ((1973-74), St. Mary Star of the Sea, Key West (1974-76), St. Gregory, Plantation (1976) and Epiphany, South Miami (1976-81), before being named pastor of Visitation Church, North Miami, where he served from September 1981 to June 1991.
He took over as administrator and then pastor of St. Bernadette in June 1991, and in 2004 also was named supervising principal of Archbishop Edward McCarthy High School in Southwest Ranches. On the 10-year anniversary of his service there, he noted how the style of education today is “so different from my school days. The students sit on couches, rugs, or chairs, similar to a university setting and work on projects using their iPad. With a swipe of a finger they have access to the latest information available.”
He was proud of the high school’s accomplishments, including the fact that it was “consistently recognized” by the Catholic High School Honor Roll “as one of the top Catholic high schools in the nation. We do all this to help our students live up to their fullest potential,” he said at the time.
In addition to his brother, Father Bryan Dalton, he is survived by two sisters, Rosemary and Mona, and a number of nieces and nephews.
The viewing for Father Dalton will take place Thursday, Jan. 4, from 5 to 9 p.m., with vespers at 7:30 p.m. The funeral Mass will be celebrated Friday, Jan. 5, at 10 a.m. All the services will be held at St. Bernadette Church, 7450 Stirling Road, Hollywood.