The beloved Father Bryan Dalton died Nov. 30, 2018. Prior to his passing, Boca magazine’s publisher, John Shuff, wrote this piece honoring Dalton’s impact on his life for the November issue of Boca magazine.
The holidays are upon us, beginning with Thanksgiving, when everyone counts their blessings, thanking God for our family and our friends and in some instances, individuals who have made a significant impact on our lives. It may be a physician, a surgeon, a teacher—anyone to whom you are grateful for having crossed your path.
For me, personally, it’s my priest, Father Bryan Dalton, the pastor at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Deerfield Beach. My wife Margaret Mary and I have attended the church since 1980. Back then Father Dalton was the parish’s assistant, returning to St. Ambrose as pastor in 1993 following nine years as pastor of St. Richard Church in Miami.
That was 25 years ago; today, Father Dalton is seriously ill with cancer. His voice is weak, he’s lost weight and that distinctive Irish brogue is barely discernable. His gait is slow and deliberate. He is a wounded man now, the cancer having spread throughout his body, and all he asks is that we pray for him. We do.
But it’s the strength of his faith that belies his physical presence. He says Mass every day. He attends to ill parishioners, and he oversees the church’s top-notch grade school. He still guides the parish ministries. Most of all, he is still a “people person,” a man people trust, a relationship builder. And every year, St. Ambrose leads the Archdiocese of Miami in its annual charities drive.
Father Dalton, who has now been a priest for 48 years, can be spotted most days walking down Federal Highway, sometimes having breakfast at Olympia Flame Diner. Every time I see him, I know whomever he runs into will hear him reiterate his message of God’s love for everyone. He believes this with all his heart. And he spreads the word.
Born in Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland he came to the United States in 1970. He likes to tell the story of the first car he bought, a junker, with monthly payments of $65 on a priest’s monthly salary of $75. He is a simple man, with a weakness for chocolate, but he has never had a drink. His passion is attending to the spiritual needs of those he loves—his parishioners—a vocation that is especially tough these days when scandals abound in the Catholic Church and fewer and fewer people attend mass.
But Father Dalton attracts a full house every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Mass. When he shakes your hand after Mass and wishes you a great week, you are coming in contact with a special person, one whose true belief is, “The best is yet to come.”
Father, may God hold you close to his heart like you have with me, and all of those who have ever crossed your path.