Blessed John Sullivan

February 19, 2019 in Inspirational Jesuits

A holy life need not be defined by one great act, but can be a sum of small acts and kindnesses. John Sullivan was known by those who encountered him as a deeply spiritual and endlessly generous man, and by some even he was known as a healer and a miracle-worker.

The youngest of five children, John Sullivan was born in Dublin in 1861. His was a wealthy family; his father was a barrister and his mother came from a land-owning family in Cork. Despite having a Catholic mother, Sullivan was raised a protestant like his father, as was usual for the time. He went to school in Enniskillen, before studying classics in Trinity College. Having achieved a gold medal in Classics in 1885, he then moved to London where he studied to be a barrister like his father. That same year his father died, leaving Sullivan with a considerable inheritance.

In 1896 Sullivan was received into the Catholic Church, at the age of thirty five. For him it was a decision that he had mulled over for a considerable time, but it came as a shock to family and friends. Further surprise came four years later when he entered the noviciate for the Society of Jesus in Tullabeg, Offaly. He continued his studies of philosophy and theology in Milltown in Dublin, where he was ordained in 1907. Soon after this Sullivan took up a teaching post in Clongowes Wood College in Kildare, where he would continue working for the rest of his life.

Despite the wealth he had inherited and grown up accustomed to, Sullivan imposed on himself strict fasting observances, as well as spending much time in solitude and prayer. He was well known by people all around Clongowes as a virtuous and selfless man, he would travel often around to the nearby villages using an old bicycle and seeing to the need of the sick or the poor. Many people even attested to his healing power; with numerous seemingly miraculous cures during his time at Clongowes thought to have been due to him. A miracle has been attributed to him where a woman in Dublin in 1954 recovered from cancer after praying to John Sullivan.

Serving as Rector of the Juniorate and Retreat House at Rathfarnham Castle until 1924, Sullivan then returned to Clongowes where he remained until his death, giving over his time to teaching and to caring for those in need. He took ill in 1933, and was taken to St. Vincent’s Nursing Home, where he later died, with his brother by his side, at the age of seventy one.

He was declared a ‘Servant of God’ in September 1960, ‘Venerable’ in November 2014 and ‘Blessed’ on 13 May 2017. His Feast Day is celebrated on 8 May. The faithful are eagerly awaiting for him to be declared a Saint.