May 10, 2017 — Irish Jesuit Father John Sullivan, remembered
for his healing prayers, his consolation for the troubled and his devotion to
God, will be beatified on May 13 at St. Francis Xavier Church in Dublin, where
the Jesuit priest’s body was interred.
Fr. Sullivan will become the first-ever person
to be beatified in Ireland when two archbishops — one Catholic and one Anglican
— present the solemn petition asking that he be declared blessed.
That is unusual, but Fr. Sullivan’s life straddled two
centuries, two traditions and two cultures.
Born in 1861, one of five children, Fr. Sullivan grew up in
privileged conditions in Ireland and Britain. He was raised in the Protestant
tradition of his father, Sir Edward Sullivan, who rose to be lord chancellor of
Ireland. His mother, Elizabeth, was a devout Catholic.
At Trinity College Dublin, he excelled in his studies of the
classics. He was an avid tennis player and was dubbed "the best-dressed
man in Dublin."
In 1885, the year of his father’s death, Fr. Sullivan went
to London to study law. He traveled extensively and even considered becoming a
monk at one of the Orthodox monasteries on Mount Athos in Greece. In 1896, at
35, he became a Catholic.
His reception into the Catholic Church marked a complete
break with the life he had lived. Returning to his affluent home in Dublin, he
stripped his room down to the floor boards and spent much time visiting the
poor and dying. Four years later, he entered the Jesuits.
From the time of his ordination in 1907, reports of
miraculous healings began. Cures for meningitis, breast cancer, tuberculosis,
infantile paralysis and many other illnesses were all attributed to his prayers
during his lifetime. He willingly cycled long distances to spend hours praying
at a patient’s bedside while working as a teacher in Clongowes Wood School in
After his death in 1933, his graveside in
Clongowes became a place of pilgrimage. The healings continued.
Jesuit Father Conor Harper, vice postulator of Fr.
Sullivan’s sainthood cause, said hundreds of miracles have been attributed to
his intercession, many within living memory.
Neil Morton, former headmaster of the school where Fr. Sullivan
was educated, says Portora Roayl School in Enniskillen is "proud of being
the only Protestant school in the history of Ireland that can boast of having a
But for Fr. Harper, Fr. Sullivan’s real greatness is that
"he is a priest of the poor and the sick — that is why he is known." [Sources: CNS, Catholic News Agency]