Dan Delany: May perpetual light surround him. What a giant of a man! I like thinking of all the faces lining up to greet him — all the people that he helped along his Way. Dan died last week, released at last into God’s pure passion.
Catholic Workers’ Dan and Chris are part of my pantheon of spiritual heroes. Not only for their dedication to becoming living epistles of Matthew 25, but in their personal lives and struggles.
Dorothy Day mentioned Dan in at least one “On Pilgrimage” column (The Catholic Worker, January 1972, 1, 2, 4) saying:
… since Jan Adams mentioned in her article all those social alternatives that mean working from the bottom up and with people as they are, rather than from the top down (government), I’d like to write about the “earthy spirituality that Christians need to recover,” that Rosemary refers to. In a way, “Christians” is not quite the right word. The Jews in the tales of the Hasidim show themselves to be masters of that “earthy spirituality.” There is certainly more than a touch of the “wild, prophetic and the holy” in movements like Cesar Chavez’. It is “alive” in the sense that Jesus Christ meant when He said He has come “to bring life and to bring it more abundantly.”
I am sure that it is in the Catholic Worker movement too, and I sensed it in the new houses of hospitality, in San Francisco, run by Chris Montesano, and the one in Los Angeles, run by Dan Delaney, Jeff Dietrich, Sue Pollack (whose article appears in this issue) and several other young men. It is the only thing which keeps me from falling into a state of despair when I see the apparent hopelessness of the destitution situation around us here in New York.
He was a Los Angeles priest who fell in love with a nun. Together, they left the Catholic Church, got married, moved to Sacramento and soon began helping the needy in their new hometown by making sandwiches and handing them out from the back of their van.
The need grew and so did the work to address it. Soon the van was not enough and the couple opened Loaves & Fishes. That was 37 years ago.
On Wednesday, Dan Delany, a towering figure in the local plight of the homeless and the battle against injustice, succumbed to a lengthy bout with dementia. He was 80. He is survived by his wife and co-founder of Loaves & Fishes, Chris Delany; their two adult children, Becky and John Delany; and three grandchildren.
Renowned as a storyteller and a wit, Mr. Delany could also be a fierce and persistent voice for the poor. And in many ways, he and his wife lived like those they served, taking only a small salary and never wavering from their vows of poverty they made through the church.
Loaves & Fishes began as a modest soup kitchen and expanded through the years to become a broad-based campus with a private school for homeless children, a shelter for chronically homeless and mentally ill women, a kennel for pets belonging to the poor and a kitchen that continues to serve meals to thousands on every day but Christmas.