Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has warmly welcomed the news today that Pope Francis has approved the beatification of Venerable John Sullivan (1861-1933). Pope Francis approved the decree that authenticated a miracle attributed to Father Sullivan at an audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Many miracles have been attributed to the Jesuit priest who was baptised into the Church of Ireland (his father’s tradition) and who became a Roman Catholic (his mother’s tradition) in the second half of his life.
His early education was at Portora Royal Enniskillen and Trinity College Dublin. Much of his priestly life was spent in Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare, where he had a reputation for sanctity among the schoolboys and the many local often poor people whom he visited. Word of his holy and healing ways spread around Ireland and to this day thousands visit his tomb in Gardiner St Church with deep devotion, praying for his help and intercession for healing.
Archbishop Martin and Archbishop Michael Jackson, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin have joined together on several occasions in prayer for Father John Sullivan at Gardiner Street Church in Dublin, which holds the John Sullivan cross.
Archbishop Martin said John Sullivan was marked in a special way by a great care for the sick. “Reading his biographies is like reading a directory of the hospitals and the homes for the sick in the Dublin of his days. There was nothing that would hold him back from visiting someone who was sick and who had asked for his prayers. In his years in Clongowes College he would travel by bicycle or on foot when he heard the news of someone who was ill. He was not a medical expert or a faith healer, but a man who through his own prayer and personal holiness was able to transmit to those he encountered something of the healing power and the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
Archbishop Martin said John Sullivan’s seeking for God led him towards the Catholic Church and then towards priestly ordination, but he never renounced the initial formation he had received in the tradition of the Church of Ireland “John Sullivan’s faith was the product of two traditions and always remained so and was enriched by that fact.
Father Conor Harper SJ, Vice Postulator for the cause of Father John Sullivan says the long awaited news will delight many of the friends of John Sullivan throughout the world but especially here in Ireland. “What is remarkable about Father John Sullivan”, he adds, “has been the manner in which he is remembered and revered in the two Christian traditions that were so dear to him, the Roman Catholic and the Protestant. Our Church of Ireland friends join us in celebration.”
Also commenting on the news, Church of Ireland Archbishop Michael Jackson said, “The holiness of the life of John Sullivan SJ has touched and inspired countless people in Ireland and internationally. We in the Church of Ireland give thanks for the public recognition of holiness, humility and service of humanity on the part of John Sullivan. We rejoice in the fact that, as well as living a life that honoured God and the Jesuit Order, he spent half of his life as a member of the Church of Ireland. In this sense the recognition of his holiness has a strong ecumenical feel to it as he never rejected the influence of the Anglican tradition on his spiritual flourishing. Members of Portora Royal School, where John Sullivan was educated will also rejoice on this day.”