Advocate for the poor

Former St. Mary of the Lake parishioner becomes District Superior of the Holy Cross in Chile
BY claudia mathis / sun staff writer

Even though Skaneateles native Father Michael DeLaney, CSC arrived in Santiago, Chile on June 30, memories of his family and of St. Mary of the Lake Parish are still fresh in his mind. He said he still feels very connected to Skaneateles and the Syracuse Diocese.

Son of the late William and Mary Jane DeLaney and brother of William, Joseph, Patricia and Katherine, Father DeLaney grew up in the Skaneateles parish. He is a 1976 graduate of Skaneateles High School. His uncle, Father Thomas McGrath, is the pastor at St. Mary’s.

Father DeLaney left his post as administrator of Notre Dame High School in Niles, Ill., at the end of the 2006-07 school year to become District Superior of Chile for the Priests of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Indiana Province.

Father DeLaney said he was surprised to learn of his appointment. “They did a review of what the needs of the district were and thought I would be the type they would like to have,” said Father DeLaney. “The provincial and our superior general also knew of my interest in the international dimension of our congregation, so they asked me to consider this and a few days later I was named the major superior here.”

Father DeLaney oversees Holy Cross ministries, priests and brothers within Chile. The ministries include two schools, three parishes — each with a number of chapels serving the poor and marginalized — two orphanages, various social ministries to the poor and formation and vocation outreach. He is also responsible for ministering to the priests and brothers of Holy Cross Order who live and work in Chile. “The Holy Cross community works primarily in the realm of education of the parishes in the barrios and in outreach through social services,” said Father Delaney. “For the most part, the congregation lives and works among the poor and marginalized.”

Even though Father DeLaney has served in Chile for a short period of time, he said he has experienced many joys. “One of the joys is my work with the schools and the orphanages/homes we have for abandoned children,” said Father Delaney. “We’re helping to provide education and a sense of family for youth and helping to give them a foundation for a successful life. One cannot escape poverty without education. I have always loved my work in education, and this is a new phase and format, but very rewarding.”

Father DeLaney said he is very impressed with the natives’ strong faith. “They have struggled through much of their history, and most of our ministry is with the poor or working poor,” said Father Delaney. “They witness a strong faith and belief in the church and model what lay leadership can be.”

In addition to his work in Chile, Father Delaney serves as coordinator of the Latin American Council, which unites the districts of Holy Cross in Peru, Chile, Brazil and part of Mexico. The council’s mission is to examine the order’s ministries in these countries, seeking possibilities for collaboration and a clearer identity for the congregation’s work in Latin America. Father Delaney’s appointment, which was approved by the Superior General of the Holy Cross in Rome, will take him to that city annually to meet with the provincials and district superiors representing Holy Cross provinces and districts throughout the world.

Father Delaney’s first venture into Latin America was in 1975. As a junior at Skaneateles High School, he was selected to participate in the American Field Service and lived in Brazil.

Since that time he has had many opportunities to work with and on the behalf of the people of Latin America. He has served them in the education sector and through outreach parochial work in the Archdioceses of Portland and Chicago.

Father DeLaney is a 1980 graduate of Georgetown School of Foreign Service, where he studied developmental economics and Latin American Studies with minors in Spanish and Portuguese. He also studied cultural and human geography on the graduate level and has earned a masters degree in theology. Father DeLaney also speaks German, French and Italian.

Prior to serving at Notre Dame, Father Delaney taught and had administrative and pastoral duties at the University of Portland from 1987 to 2002. In addition, Father DeLaney has served as the superior of the Holy Cross religious communities in both Oregon and Chicago for the past 10 years.

When Father DeLaney learned of his new appointment he felt prepared to meet the needs of the people in Chile because of what he had learned through his work at Notre Dame and the University of Portland.

“We’re all very proud of what he is doing,” said Father McGrath. “Michael always had a great desire to be in the mission field, so that desire is being fulfilled. I know he will bring great gifts to what he is doing. The Lord has led him to the right place.”

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