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Bl John Sullivan: the Farm Street Connection

By Fr Dominic Robinson SJ

It was a wonderful joy and privilege to be at St Francis Xavier, Gardiner St, the Jesuit  church in the centre of Dublin on Saturday 13th May to see Fr John Sullivan  SJ, who died in 1933, declared ‘blessed’ by Pope Francis. I was there representing Farm Street along with Br James Hodkinson SJ of the Mount Street Jesuit Community and Miss Felicity Ann Croft from the Parish.

Bl John Sullivan, however, already has a much wider reach than Dublin or Ireland or the Catholic Church.  Because it was at Farm Street that in 1896 Fr John Gavin SJ received Bl John into the Catholic Church.  John Sullivan had been a barrister at Lincoln’s Inn and, during his time in London, had a conversion experience.  This conversion, however, should not be regarded as turning his back on his Anglican roots, where he had learnt his Christian faith.  Rather it was a turning his back on what was a brilliant legal career and London social life to a profound commitment to Gospel values, especially to a humble service of the sick and poor. 

In 1900 he entered the Irish Jesuit novitiate and spent the rest of his life committed to an untiring attention to the sick and the poor, for most of the time at Clongowes Wood College in County Kildare.  So it was in an unprecedented ecumenical gesture that the request of Pope Francis to declare John Sullivan blessed was made jointly by the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin. 

The principal celebrant at the Beatification Mass, representing Pope Francis, was Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.  In his homily Cardinal Amato spoke of Fr John’s example of practising with perfection the ‘evangelical virtues’, that is, of the values of the Gospel, through the particular choice of life he made as a professed priest in a religious order, that was for him the Jesuits.  The Cardinal stressed how this was for him a life of true humility, not seeking the limelight but living out the Gospel in simple ways and always seeking out those who were weak and lonely, be it in Clongowes Wood College itself or the local area.  As such Blessed John is an example to all of us of how we can live out the Gospel more closely whatever we do, wherever we live. 

Please do visit the noticeboard in the Calvary Chapel at the back of Farm Street Church for more information on Bl John Sullivan and to pray through his intercession for favours. 

Bl John Sullivan, pray for us.