The 31-year-old Cobb County native said he plans to dedicate the Mass to his family for their support and generosity throughout his journey to becoming a priest.
Dalton, who was ordained Dec. 15, said returning home is something he has been looking forward to for a long time.
“I’ve been on this path towards the priesthood for over 11 years,” the 1999 Lassiter valedictorian said. “This is the first time I get to come home with this great gift to my family.”
Dalton became interested in pursuing the priesthood while in his sophomore year at Georgia Institute of Technology, where he performed as the school’s mascot, Buzz. He joined the Legionaries of Christ, a Catholic congregation, in 2001 and went on to earn degrees in philosophy and theology as well as spend three years in apostolic work with youth in Washington, D.C., and France.
The Legionaries, part of the apostolic Regnum Christi movement, help in parishes in 22 countries throughout the world.
In his first Mass, Dalton said he hopes to overcome what he thinks will likely be a “rollercoaster of emotion” to show gratitude both to God and to his family for supporting him ever since he made the decision to enter into the priesthood.
“This is my chance to say thank you and a chance to praise God for all of the things that he’s done for me over the past decade,” he said. “It’s been a long path with times of trial, but this is a time of celebration. New things are beginning.”
His mother, Mary, said it’s humbling to have a son who has dedicated his life to the priesthood.
“It’s been such an emotional high from seeing Andrew ordained and through this whole process,” she said. “Then having him come home and actually celebrate in our home parish … it’s moving. It’s emotional and it’s a joy-filled experience.”
Dalton’s first mass will be celebrated today at his family’s parish, St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church in Roswell at 4:30 p.m.
Dalton just finished a year of studying Greek and Hebrew and after returning to Italy in the fall he will enter into a two-year license program at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. Upon completion of the program, he will enter the priesthood ministry wherever he is assigned.
“That’s the way it goes,” Dalton said. “You get a letter and a couple days later, off you go. That’s part of the adventure.”
Dalton will be home until Wednesday and plans to spend time with his parents, two sisters, nieces and nephews, saying he hopes to make up for time lost while he was away.
“When someone goes off to seminary, it leaves a hole in some way in the family,” he said. “I was apart from them for so long and that is hard for my mom and dad and sisters. This is my chance to recognize my choice to say ‘Yes’ to this vocation and recognize their support, encouraging me to do what I believe in my heart to be God’s will for my life.”
Back in Rome on June 30, Dalton will participate in an ordination ceremony for new deacons and leave for Germany the next day to participate in a six-week course to learn German in a Benedictine monastery.