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Bl John Sullivan SJ

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jsullivanJohn Sullivan was born in Dublin 1861. His father, the future Lord Chancellor of Ireland Sir Edward Sullivan was a Protestant. His mother was a Catholic. John was baptised and brought up in the Protestant tradition of his father. In 1873 John went to Portora Royal School, Enniskillen in Northern Ireland which had the reputation of being the most eminent Protestant school of the day.

After Portora, John went to Trinity College Dublin. where he distinguished himself in his university studies and in 1885 he was awarded the Gold Medal in Classics. The promising young scholar left Ireland and continued his legal studies at Lincoln’s Inn in London where he was called to the Bar in 1888.  Later, he travelled extensively around Europe he stayed at the Orthodox monastery of Mount Athos in Greece and was friendly with the monks.

In 1896 at the age of 35, he made a momentous decision. He was received into the Catholic Church at the Jesuit Church, Farm Street, London. From this time onward a marked changed was noted in his manner of living. On returning to the family home in Dublin, he stripped his room of anything that was superfluous, satisfying himself with the simplest of furniture on a carpetless floor. The young man, who was formerly noted for his fashionable dress, contented himself with the plainest of clothes.

In September 1900 John Sullivan decided to enter the Society of Jesus. In 1904 he came to Milltown Park to study theology and he was ordained a priest on 28 July 1907. He was then appointed to the staff in Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare where he was to spend the greater part of his life as a Jesuit.

Fr. John’s reputation for holiness spread rapidly around Clongowes and the neighbourhood. Many revered him as a saint. He prayed constantly – he walked with God continually – he listened to Him and he found Him and God worked through him. Many who were in need of spiritual or physical healing flocked to him and asked his prayers – and strange things happened. The power of God seemed to work through him and many were cured.

He was always available to the sick, the poor, anyone in need. The call to serve God in serving those who suffered in any way was a driving force for the rest of his life. He was always caring for others – a source of comfort and peace to anyone in trouble. He brought many to God by pointing out the way that leads to the deepest and ultimate peace. He was always at prayer whenever possible. Every available moment was spent in the chapel.

He walked with God and lived every conscious moment in his nearer presence. At times he hardly seemed to notice the ordinary world around him. He was in constant union with his Maker and cared little for the material things of life.

Fr John Sullivan died in the old St. Vincent’s Nursing Home in Leeson Street on 19 February 1933. Since that time, he has been revered by many as a saint.


Servant of God in September 1960
Venerable November 2014
Beatified 13 May 2017


Abridged from 'Jesuits in Ireland'. For fuller information, click on this link: