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Blessed John’s gift of presence

Declan O’Keeffe, Head of Communications at Clongowes Wood College, reflects on the mass of thanksgiving for the beatification of Fr John Sullivan SJ which took place on 20 May 2017.

On Saturday of last week (May 13th) the whole of the Society of Jesus shared in the joy of the Irish Province as we celebrated the Beatification of the Venerable John Sullivan in Gardiner Street Church – a truly joyful and moving occasion. Last Saturday (20th May) Blessed John’s own community gathered with our Bishop, Denis Nulty, our Students, Staff, Parents and OCs and with the people of Kildare and beyond to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at Clongowes. On an equally joyful and moving occasion, adorned by the ethereal singing of our Schola Choir, Bishop Nulty was joined on the altar by some sixteen priests including Fr Conor Harper SJ, Vice Postulator for the cause of Fr John Sullivan, the Irish Jesuit Provincial, Fr Leonard Moloney SJ and the Rector of Clongowes, Fr Michael Sheil SJ.

In his Homily Bishop Nulty asked ‘Where do we find the Saints, the role models, the gentle, sincere examples today of heroic virtue and honour?’ saying that ‘this is the challenge of 2017’. He noted that Fr John was the product of ‘what was termed [a] mixed marriage [in which] the boys were brought up Protestants and the girls Catholics’. He went on to say that this ‘is the beauty of this cause and this celebration; it crosses all divides, all divisions. Blessed John Sullivan in his sanctity is something which both the Roman Catholic and the Church of Ireland Anglican tradition take great pride in. His faith is a product of both traditions’.

He paid tribute to ‘you the people, you the faithful [who] have kept very alive the cause of John Sullivan through your admiration, prayer and devotion. It was here he walked your roads; it was here he blessed your sick; it was here he visited your homes. In my opinion, the reason why John Sullivan is now Blessed John Sullivan is because of his untiring and unwilting attention to the feeble and sick in these parts. Witness statements are saturated with stories around healing, cures and living miracles. Most of John Sullivan’s work with the sick was done secretly, but it was rooted in his very deep faith. He was not a medical doctor or therapist but he knew how to spend time with people. John Sullivan knew the value of presence, the value of being present. Isn’t it the greatest gift we can offer one another in 2017 – to plug out the ear-phones, turn off the iPhones and actually be present to one another?’

Bishop Nulty closed by reviewing the process for his Beatification, which ‘began at diocesan levels in Dublin and Kildare & Leighlin as far back as 1947, seventy years ago; it is more necessary now than ever not to stop the prayers and the devotion. There is still a journey to go towards ultimately his canonisation. Ireland needs John Sullivan and his ilk to remind us of the value of presence, of caring for the sick and of prayer.’

Blessed John Sullivan, patron of the Missing, pray for us.

Blessed John Sullivan, man of Prayer, pray for us.

Blessed John Sullivan, carer of the Sick, pray for us.

Blessed John Sullivan, priest who understood Presence, pray for us.

Blessed John Sullivan, unifier of all Christians, pray for us.

For more on Fr John Sullivan’s close connection with Clongowes click here.