Irish Jesuit's life of "heroic virtue"
An Irishman who converted to Catholicism at Farm Street Church in London and went on to become a Jesuit has been recognised by Pope Francis. The Pope has declared that Fr John Sullivan SJ “lived a life of heroic virtue”, the stage before beatification on the road to canonisation.
John Sullivan (pictured) was born in Dublin in 1861, the son of the future Lord Chancellor of Ireland, Sir Edward Sullivan, a Protestant, and Lady Bessie Josephine Sullivan, who was a Catholic. Having been raised a Protestant, he was received into the Catholic Church on 21 December 1896 by Father Michael Gavin SJ at the Church of the Immaculate Conception (Farm St Church) in Mayfair, central London. After his novitiate at St Stanislaus College Tullabeg in County Offaly, he was sent for two years of philosophical study at St Mary's Hall in Stonyhurst, Lancashire, which at that time was the philosophical seminary of the English Jesuits.
Having been ordained to the priesthood, Fr John Sullivan SJ taught at Clongowes Wood College, Co Kildare, where he spent most of the rest of his life. While living there, he spent much of his time in prayer, asceticism and ministering to the sick and the poor whom he used to visit regularly on his bicycle. In February 1933, he suffered severe abdominal pains and was transferred to St Vincent's Nursing Home in Dublin where he died on 19 February 1933, aged 71. He was buried in Clongowes Wood Cemetery.
In 1960, Saint John XXIII declared Fr John Sullivan SJ to be a Servant of God and his remains were transferred from Clongowes to Saint Francis Xavier's Church in Dublin's Gardiner Street. This week, the Vatican issued a statement saying that Pope Francis had authorised the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate decrees on the heroic virtues of eight people including a Chilean bishop and seven Europeans; these included Father John Sullivan SJ.
A monthly Mass is held for Father Sullivan at St Francis Xavier's Church in Gardiner St, Dublin on the third Saturday of every month, with an annual mass to celebrate his life on the Saturday closest to the anniversary of his death (19 February). Many come to pray at his tomb in the Sacred Heart Chapel of St Francis Xaxier’s Church where his crucifix is in constant demand for blessings.