"Father Jim," as he is known, is retiring after 44 years as a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Seattle, which covers Western Washington.
Dalton served the last seven years as the pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Arlington and St. John Mary Vianney Mission church in Darrington. He is set to celebrate his final Mass as pastor July 1.
Dalton, 70, plans to continue to serve in the region, performing weddings and funerals and filling pulpits when he is called. However, relaxing days at his home on a lake in Skagit County are ahead.
For now, Dalton is busy giving away mementos from his long term of service, writing his final messages, giving lots of hugs and easing the transition for the Rev. Tim Sauer, who will serve as the new priest at Immaculate Conception in Arlington.
Dalton grew up in Seattle, one of six children and one of two who entered the priesthood. Dalton attended St. Edward Seminary, now a state park in Kenmore, followed by his study at nearby St. Thomas Seminary. Over the years, he served churches in Everett, Lynnwood, Kirkland, White Center and Sedro-Woolley before his final pastorate in Arlington.
"The church doesn't call it retirement, but rather achieving senior status. I am always going to be happy to help when I can," Dalton said. "It's been a good, long career,"
His work in mission churches in Darrington and Concrete were among the highlights, he said.
"A Mass in Darrington is always followed by a potluck in our hall there," Dalton said. "I like Darrington. You feel part of the family."
During his time in Arlington, Dalton also was instrumental in establishing a sister relationship with Christ the King Church in Bungoma in eastern Kenya. The church's priest, the Rev. Christopher Wanyonyi is visiting this week and Dalton has gone to Kenya several times.
"Father Jim and I are brothers and friends," Wanyonyi said. "I am proud that we have this connection."
The sister parish relationship began when people in Arlington raised money for a water project in Kenya, Dalton said. Now Immaculate Conception also supports the sister church's school and economic projects.
"I have always been impressed with the Arlington parishioners," Dalton said. "Whether it was Kenya, Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in Japan or our cold-weather shelter and food bank here in town, people in Arlington have been tremendously generous."
Another fundraising effort this year focused on replacing the church's bell, which was stolen on Memorial Day, 2011. Most likely thieves cut up the bell and sold it to metal recyclers, Dalton said.
"The bell was cast for this church in 1917," he said. "You can't truly replace something like that. But between the insurance money, our fundraising efforts and somebody on the lookout at a Monroe flea market, we have a new church bell."
Dalton praised his church staff for their hard work during his tenure.
Gail Thompson, church secretary for the past 28 years, returned the compliment.
"Father Jim has led us with care, compassion and great humor," Thompson said. "And he still has many years of comfort care for the people left in him."
Immaculate Conception Parish is located at 1200 E. Fifth St., Arlington and St. John Mary Vianney Mission is at 1150 Riddle St., Darrington. More info: http://icp-sjvm.org/.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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