RepositoryJesuits in Britain Archives
Ref NoABSI/SJ/54
TitleBl John Sullivan SJ (Irish Province) (1861-1933)
LevelSub fonds
DescriptionThe material in this collection relates to the beatification of the Irish Jesuit John Sullivan.
Admin_HistoryJohn Sullivan was born 8 May 1861 in Dublin, the youngest of five children to Edward Sullivan, a barrister who later became the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and Elizabeth Josephine Bailey. Sullivan was raised as a Protestant and was baptized in the local Church of Ireland parish of Saint George on Temple Street on 15 July 1861. In 1873 he was sent to the Portora Royal School in Enniskillen and then followed in his father's footsteps and went to Trinity College from 1879 where he studied classics. He was awarded the Gold Medal in Classics in 1885 and then studied for the English Bar at Lincoln's Inn in London. During this period he travelled across Europe and spent time taking walking tours in Macedonia and Greece as well as Asia Minor. He spent several months in one of the Orthodox monasteries on Mount Athos and even contemplated entering it as a monk. He travelled through Southern Italy en route home but was forced to prolong his stay there due to contracting smallpox.

Upon his father's death in 1885 he came into a comfortable inheritance. He was a frequent visitor to the Hospice of the Dying at Harold's Cross where he brought comfort and companionship in addition to small tokens of food and drink as well as clothing to those ill people. Sullivan was received into the Roman Catholic Church 21 December 1896 in a celebration that was presided over by Fr Michael Gavin SJ at Farm Street Church. He entered the Irish novitiate on 7 September 1900 at Saint Stanislaus College at Tullabeg, County Offaly in Ireland. In 1902 Sullivan moved to Stonyhurst to study philosophy. Because he had his degrees already and what was called a 'late vocation', he did a shortened formation course of seven years rather than the usual 16 or so. In 1904 John began the study of theology at Milltown Park in Dublin and was ordained at the chapel there by Archbishop William Walsh, 28 July 1907. In 1908, Sullivan was sent to Clongowes Wood College to teach, but it appeared that teaching did not come easily to him, so in 1909 he was appointed Spiritual Father of the boys. In 1919 he was appointed Rector of Rathfarnham Castle, a residence and house of studies for Jesuit students. In 1922 he built a reatreat house there to accommodate working men's retreats at the weekends and boys' retreats during the week. Sullivan's tenure as rector ended in 1924 when he was sent back to Clongowes to be Spiritual Father to the boys once more. Two years later he was put in charge of the People's Church and began ministry to the poor and sick of the neighbourhood. He remained at Clongowes for the next nine years.

On Sunday 4 February 1933, Sullivan asked to see a doctor about a swelling on his elbow. It was necessary to lance it and he remained in the infirmary a fortnight, however his condition grew worse and it was discovered he was suffering from an advanced form of thrombosis. Despite an operation, his condition continued to deteriorate and he died, 19 February 1933. The Requiem Mass in the Boys' Chapel at Clowngowes was presided over by the bishop of Kildaire and Leighlin, Dr Matthew Cullen. There was a deep devotion to Sullivan in the local area, and many came to his grave to pray. In 1960 Sullivan's remains were transferred to St Francis Xavier's Church in Gardiner Street, Dublin as part of the process of beatification.The coffin now adjoins the Sacred Heart Altar and to this day is visited by people seeking his intercession.

The Cause for Sullivan's canonisation was introduced in 1944. In 1960 he was declared a Servant of God and on 7 November 2014 he was declared Venerable. On 24 April 2016, Pope Francis approved his beatification. Sullivan was the first person to be beatified in Ireland, rather than centrally in Rome.
Related MaterialFor records of Farm Street Church see PC/1/-/
AccessConditionsThe papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to archive material in the Jesuits in Britain Archives.
DS/UK/994Sullivan; John (1861-1933); Blessed; Jesuit Priest1861-1933

    Showcase items

    A list of our latest and most exciting new items.

    Copyright ©