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Father Brendan Dalton, 73, St. Bernadette’s ‘pastor, leader, friend’

Irish native had been a priest for 48 years, also served at Archbishop McCarthy High

This article has been updated as more information became available.

Father Brendan Dalton: Born Sept. 14, 1944; ordained June 8, 1969; died Dec. 31, 2017.

Photographer: FILE PHOTO

Father Brendan Dalton: Born Sept. 14, 1944; ordained June 8, 1969; died Dec. 31, 2017.

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‚Ķ 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.

Comments from readers

William VanderWyden - 01/08/2018 08:59 AM
I worked with Father Dalton when he was a young associate at Epiphany in the mid 70's. It was evident that he was dedicated and excited to be a priest, and he was very present to the People of God, responding to every person in a positive and giving manner. Those were the days when there were four priests living in the rectory, serving under the venerable Monsignor John O'Dowd. He went on to new places and new people, but always kept that sparkle for doing the Lord's work in South Florida. R.I.P., good and faithful servant.
Virginia Wong - 01/03/2018 05:31 PM
Our hearts are broken to hear about Father B. Dalton's passing, my family was so close to him, We attended Visitation church in 1981 1991, I was one of the Eucharistic Minister which Father Dalton ask me to be a minister. My 2 kids VIsherryl Wong-Morgan & Fred Wong Jr, Attended Visitation Cath. Sch. and my son Fred was one of the altar boy. We had a long history with Father D as everyone calls him, he was a hero & our spiritual counselor. His charismatic & his exuberant nature touched everyone that knew him & serve the Lord. Attending mass with Father Dalton was a great lift. My family always remember his stories, sermons & will never forgotten them, Our favorite sermon was about the Golden Apple. I am so proud & honored to say that my 2 kids received their Sacraments. I am so thankful to Father Dalton who was there to say the last rites for my father & mother in laws & also served their funeral masses. We truly appreciated & could not thank Father D enough when he came all the way past the South West Ranches to bless our brand new home, we didn't expect him to stay half of a day ( with his busy schedules) with the family, but he did after the blessing, we ate, talked & he gave us his advised & his last words was Oh Boy, you are all so far away from civilization. WHen my son Fred Wong Jr. got married they prepared at St. Bernadette( where Father was) & were married by Father Dalton ( that was 17 years ago) Father Brandon Dalton is loved by so many & have touched generations of families. Our family were honored & blessed to know him & Father D maybe gone, but he will remain in our hearts forever. God bless and see you in everlasting life our dearest Brother in Christ, a dear friend, a great spiritual advisor, our Hero. Good bye and Rest In Peace with our Lord, be our Guardian Angel. Virginia Wong & family
Joan Crown - 01/02/2018 03:20 PM
So many remembrances of Fr. Dalton... my most personal one is that my granddaughter 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 in St. Bernadette's CCD class my daughter had to be there with her to speak for her. One day Fr. Dalton came in and asked the question who would like to sing with him on the altar at First Communion... 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. Fr. 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, singing with Fr. Dalton the song "Do You Love Jesus". My other very personal memory is when Fr. Dalton told me after daily Mass one day that he was going to take me to the Holy Land as a thank you for all the years I have served the diocese in the Respect Life Ministry. The pilgrimage was life changing thanks to Fr. Dalton's very personal attention to each and every person making sure our experience was one of the most holy times in our lives. Fr. Dalton was a master Emmaus leader - another experience I was privileged to attend because of Father Dalton's encouragement. When he would see me coming toward him he would always say, "Mrs. Crown... anything you want!" I tried not to take advantage of his generosity with Respect Life. Last year he asked me to speak for ABCD. He told me that I had him in tears on the altar as I shared some of the stories of the "faceless" people helped by the ABCD campaign through the Respect Life Ministry. I will miss him... May he rest in the arms of Jesus and Mary.
Daisy Acosta - 01/01/2018 03:27 PM
My deepest sympathies to Fr. Dalton's family. I was looking for a church to become a member about three years ago. I attended a mass which Fr.Dalton officiated with my son. Our overall experience was as if we had the Holy Spirit inside us. After that my son and I became members and sing every day "Thank you, Lord" followed by how much we love and want to serve the Lord. My way of worship has increased thanks to Fr.Dalton, and I wish I had been able to tell him. I know he made an impact in all of our lives. Now God has one of His angels in heaven with him.
Jessica Isaac Ferrer - 01/01/2018 12:51 PM
My sincere condolences to Father Daltonís friends and family; he performed my first communion and confirmation at Visitation Church in Miami. I have very fond memories of his with our family and Visitation church!
Chief Fred Maas, Sunny Isles Beach Police Chief - 12/31/2017 04:30 PM
Reverend Brendan Dalton has been associated with our family since 1970-71 when he was assigned to my parents parish at Sacred Heart in Homestead. He immediately took to our large family of seven children and our Irish Catholic mother who was also born in Ireland. Over the next 47 years, he baptized, married, heard confessions, and gave Eucharist, including First Holy Communion to 4 generations of our family. My family has been with Fr. Dalton, following him from parish to parish during that time, including currently at St. Bernadette parish in Hollywood for the past 25 plus years. He recently performed the Marriage of our daughter and gave First Communion to our other grandchildren. He was so proud of the fact that on Sunday mornings he would have 3 generations of Maas' family members on the altar serving in various roles as he celebrated the holy Mass. He never let me leave without making me promise to send his regards and blessings to my mother,still in Homestead. He rarely forgot anyone and people rarely forgot him. He was a good priest and minister of the Lord. As a Police Chief for almost 20 years locally, he always would offer services and chaplaincy to my departmental officers and would always encourage their efforts in tough times. Fr. Dalton was truly a compassionate and caring priest as many will attest to by their own stories of him. Rest in Eternal Peace, Fr. Brendan.

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