By Katherine Long | Editor
As a young boy, the future Father Richard Dellos would spend Sundays “playing” Mass, convincing his younger sister Gloria to join him. With an old glass of his mother’s as a chalice, Richard would recite the Mass in Latin. “He wanted to be a priest from when he was a little boy,” his sister recently told the Catholic Sun.
Father Dellos, a priest of the Diocese of Syracuse for more than 50 years and pastor of St. Joseph-St. Patrick Church in Utica since 2002, died Aug. 11 from COVID-19-related complications, according to his family and diocesan officials. He was 77.
As an altar boy at St. Anthony’s Church in Endicott, Father Dellos enjoyed serving the church, and while attending St. Ambrose Catholic School and Seton Catholic, Father Dellos was impressed by the spirituality of his teachers, the Sisters of Charity, he told the Sun in 2010. After graduating from Seton, he went on to priestly studies at St. Andrew and St. Bernard’s seminaries in Rochester.
Ordained May 18, 1968, Father Dellos ministered in parishes in Fulton, Binghamton, Syracuse, Endicott, Greene, and Utica over the next five decades. His ministry also included service as a jail chaplain and as liaison to the bishop for charismatic renewal.
Family, close friends, and fellow clergy gathered at St. Joseph-St. Patrick Aug. 17 for Father Dellos’ private funeral Mass. At the Mass, celebrated by Bishop Douglas J. Lucia, Father Robert Chryst offered a heartfelt homily and remembrance of his friend.
Father Dellos’ travels to Rome and biblical lands helped him to realize a priest’s first priority is to proclaim the Good News, Father Chryst said. “He studied and taught the scriptures constantly” and was an oblate of St. Benedict, a liaison with the Charismatic Renewal, a devotee of the Divine Mercy, and a son of St. Marianne Cope. “He was a man of prayer who put into practice Bishop Fulton Sheen’s advice to us seminarians to spend a holy hour each day before the Blessed Sacrament,” Father Chryst said.
Father Dellos was “a child of the ‘60s” who enjoyed Smokey Robinson, Celine Dion, and Simon and Garfunkel, Father Chryst recalled. He was also an avid baseball fan and golfer who discovered an interest in acting later in life; he was cast by John Martoccia in the movies “Vito Bonafacci” and “Death of a Tree.”
He had a “pastoral heart that expressed itself in practical ways,” and there was something about Father Dellos that “attracted those who were struggling…. He never rejected them,” Father Chryst said. “He was a living, breathing advertisement for the priesthood.”
Gloria Shafer said her brother loved Utica — and not just for its Italian food, she laughed. He loved the people, she said, and the spirituality of his parish, including its Padre Pio prayer group, Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen, and perpetual adoration. Father Dellos would say “he had ‘the most wonderful sheep,’” Shafer said. “He liked being their shepherd.”
She recalled her brother as “the best role model” and her best friend. He had recently heard her confession and offered her consolation, she recalled. It was her honor to deliver a tribute — with just a bit of gentle humor — during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of his ordination in 2018. Echoing a sentiment offered during that tribute, Shafer noted her brother’s dedication to the Blessed Mother throughout his years of ministry. “She had him under her mantle for all those years and protected him,” she said.
Bishop Lucia closed Father Dellos’ funeral Mass with words from his predecessors. In notes found in Father Dellos’ personnel file, Bishop James Moynihan called Father Dellos “one of our finest priests” and Bishop Joseph O’Keefe praised him as an “exemplary priest who radiates the Lord with his ready smile.” But, Bishop Lucia said, his favorite note was an advertisement that appeared on the occasion of Father Dellos’ ordination: “Yesterday we called him Dick; today we call him Father. Yesterday he delivered the press; today he delivers service. Yesterday he was a newspaper boy; today he is a man of God.”
Father Dellos is survived by his sister Gloria (Ralph Sr.) Shafer, of Endicott; brother Robert Dellos of Endicott; nieces Kristie Nicolosi, Katrina Shafer and Lucille Dellos; nephews Ralph “Chip” Shafer Jr, Peter (Lori) Shafer, and Dominick Dellos; and many cousins and close friends.
Donations in Father Dellos’ memory may be made to the Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen, www.mmwsk.org or care of St. Joseph-St. Patrick’s Church, 702 Columbia St., Utica, N.Y. 13502.