A very special occasion

February 20, 2024 in Featured News, News

Alan McGuckian SJ, the newly appointed Bishop of Down and Connor, was the main celebrant at the annual Mass in honour of Blessed John Sullivan SJ, in St Francis Xavier Church, Gardiner St, Dublin 1, on Saturday 17 February 2024. He was joined by the Chruch of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, Niall Leahy SJ, PP of Gardiner St, and fellow Jesuits. It was a truly ‘special occasion’ for the large numbers who attended, according to Iva Beranek, the Parish Manager at the church. Read her full report of the day below.

Blessed John Sullivan SJ: A Man of Love and Compassion.

On Saturday, 17th February 2024 we had a beautiful Annual Mass in honour of Blessed John Sullivan SJ. The church was full with people who came from various parts of Ireland. Someone who hasn’t been in our church for years told me, “I have never seen the gate towards the tomb open, so I went in”. There was a real sense of a special occasion taking place.

Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ was the celebrant. In his homily, he said he had something in common with Blessed John because they both spent some time serving in Clongowes Wood College. Speaking about his own experience at the school the bishop explained that, “The best way to serve the pupils would be to get to know them, to enter into their culture and earn their trust, in order to share the Gospel worldview with them. You would take an interest in their games, go to their plays, listen to their concerts”. However, the bishop continued, “John Sullivan it seems never did any of that.” And yet, “they flocked to him when they were in trouble; emotionally or spiritually”.

Bishop Alan recalled that “Everybody he ever met seemed to know that this shabbily dressed, rather odd, extremely pious priest was full of compassion for them; certainly anybody who was weak, sad, lonely, sick or a sinner, knew that John Sullivan loved them.”

The bishop shared a simple but profound story.“A nun in the Dominican convent, Wicklow, writing in 1940, recalled how Fr. John Sullivan recommended to her the following aspirations:

  • ‘Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in Thee.’
  • ‘Sacred Heart of Jesus, I believe in your love for me.’
  • ‘Sacred Heart of Jesus, I believe you love me now.’
  • ‘I believe in God. I hope in God. I love God.’
  • ‘I am sorry for having offended God.’

Father Sullivan added, ‘Say these frequently and you’ll become very holy’. Although the aspirations suggested were nearly all well-known ones, the nun was so struck by Father Sullivan’s tone in recommending them that she never forgot his words and never allowed a day to pass without saying them.”

The Bishop encouraged us that these are the attitudes we are to take, and let them penetrate into our soul by frequently praying them.

Archbishop Michael Jackson from the Church of Ireland, who is a friend of Gardiner Street parish, prayerfully represented the Anglican tradition that Blessed John grew up in, before becoming a Catholic and a Jesuit. The Archbishop shared a few words near the end of the Mass.

A new painting of Blessed John Sullivan outside the Mater Hospital was presented for the first time and was blessed at Mass. This stunning work of art by painter Will Nathans shows Blessed John with his bicycle and rosary beads and it highlights his dedication to serving those who were sick. It will be hung in the newly refurbished John Sullivan room in the parish.

Fr. Niall Leahy SJ, our parish priest, remembered the late Fr. Conor Harper SJ who died recently and who was so dedicated to Blessed John’s cause. He was with us at Mass last year, and this time, we are sure, he joined us from Heaven.

We are also grateful that the Lloyd family, Blessed John’s closest living relatives, came from London to share in this special occasion with us.

If you were there, we hope you were truly blessed. However, if you couldn’t join us, you can watch the recording of the Mass on our website »

Bl. John Sullivan, pray for us!

Iva Beranek,
Parish Manager in St. Francis Xavier’s Church, Gardiner Street