"THE MEMORY OF JESUS IS BOTH SACRED AND SUBVERSIVE"
Monday, 24 April 2017
First Irish beatification due next month
The Irish Times
PATSY McGARRY Religious Affairs Correspondent
The late Jesuit priest Fr John Sullivan, who was raised Protestant, is to be declared “blessed” at a ceremony which will be attended by both the Church of Ireland and Catholic Archbishops of Dublin.
In a year which also marks the Reformation’s 500th anniversary, it is the first ever beatification in Ireland – a major step on the path to sainthood – and will also involve Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
The event will take place on May 13th at the Jesuit’s St Francis Xavier Church on Dublin’s Gardiner Street, a short distance from Eccles Street where Fr Sullivan was born in 1861.
Fr Sullivan was the son of Edward Sullivan, a member of the Church of Ireland and a successful barrister who would later be lord chancellor of Ireland. His mother, Elizabeth Bailey, was a Catholic from Cork.
Fr Sullivan followed the route of privileged Protestantism at the time, attending Portora Royal School near Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, and Trinity College Dublin, before going to London where he studied law.
In 1896, at age 35, he converted to Catholicism, and was ordained a Jesuit priest 11 years later. He joined the teaching staff at Clongowes Wood college, where he remained until his death in 1933 aged 71. He had spent half his life Protestant and half Catholic.
Known for his life of prayer and work with the poor, Fr Sullivan was familiar in the Kildare villages around Clongowes, and spent much of his time visiting the troubled, sick or dying. Even before he died many testified to the healing power of his prayers.
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints last year recognised as a miracle attributed to him the recovery from cancer of Dublin woman Delia Farnham in 1954 . One more miracle needs to be proven before he is canonised. It has been emphasised by those promoting his cause how he is “remembered and revered” by both Catholic and Protestant traditions.
Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson said the recognition of Fr Sullivan’s “holiness has a strong ecumenical feel to it, as he never rejected the influence of the Anglican tradition on his spiritual flourishing”.
Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said “the holiness of John Sullivan was the fruit of his education in both Catholic and Church of Ireland traditions”.
Fr Sullivan’s influence even found its way into the political realm in Ireland. Undoubtedly aware that the priest was born in his Dublin Central constituency, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern quoted him in his farewell speech when he stepped down in 2008.
PAT SAYS: I grew up and went to school near Dublin's Gardiner Street Jesuit church where Father John Sullivan's body is interred. I often prayed at his shrine. But I had a very closs connection with Father Sullivan through another Jesuit - Father John Hyde. John Hyde was a visitor to my family home when I was a baby in the 1950's and actually had the privilege of concelebrating his Funeral Mass. Father Hyde wore Father John Sullivan's suit after he died. I can remember it was greenn with age. Like Father Sullivan John Hyde had the gift of healing and I have many stories of those he healed including family members. I visited Father Hyde all his life and regard him as the inspiration for my vocation. I regard him as a saint too. Haven know saintly priests like Father Hyde makes the current situation in the priesthood more sad.