OLD SAYBROOK – Father Joseph A. Dilion, 95, of Westbrook, retired pastor of St. Brendan Parish in New Haven, passed away on Jan. 19, 2016, in Middlesex Hospital.
He had recently been a patient at Apple Rehab in Old Saybrook.
Father Dilion was born in Terryville on Dec. 18, 1920, a son of the late Joseph and Regina Gudonis Dilion. He graduated from Marianapolis Preparatory School in Thompson in 1939. He continued his education at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield and received his bachelor’s degree in economics and sacred theology from St. Mary’s University in Baltimore.
He was ordained to the priesthood on June 29, 1946, by Bishop Henry J. O’Brien. He served at St. Joseph’s Church in Waterbury, Holy Trinity Church in Hartford and St. Andrew’s Church in New Britain before becoming pastor of St. Brendan’s in 1969. He retired (now said to have attained senior status) on Oct. 3, 1994.
Father Dilion’s continued commitment to Catholic education was evident from his tireless efforts to keep St. Brendan School open. When the Daughters of the Holy Spirit ceased their service in 1974, Father Dilion performed what some parishioners described as the “Miracle of Whalley Avenue” by successfully obtaining the Daughters of Our Lady of the Garden to staff St. Brendan’s School. The school was so successful that in 1990, the U.S. Department of Education recognized St. Brendan’s as a national Blue Ribbon School.
Always active in community service and patriotism, Father Dilion was instrumental in inaugurating the Whalley Avenue Special Services District, which kept businesses and residences active and progressive in the parish neighborhood. He also was very active in the Connecticut Wing of the Civil Air Patrol and received many honors for his work in the CAP, including by serving on the group’s National Chaplain’s Committee. He was a member of the Air Force Association, the Elks, Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus and the Whalley Avenue Special Services District and was an honorary member of the Connecticut State Chiefs of Police Association.
He also attended Chaplains School at Gunther Air Force Base and completed studies at Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base.
He is survived by numerous nieces and nephews and a sister-in-law, Mary Dilion. He was pre-deceased by his brother Francis and three sisters, Salome Shimkus, Stephania Raedy and Regina Klimas.
Auxiliary Bishop Christie A. Macaluso was the principal celebrant of a Mass of Christian Burial Jan. 26 at St. Brendan Church. Interment followed in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Terryville.
Contributions in Father Dilion’s name may be made to St. Brendan’s Church, 455 Whalley Ave., New Haven, CT 06511; or to Marianapolis Preparatory School, 26 Chase Road, Thompson, CT 06277.