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Evensong for Blessed John Sullivan

There was a packed congregation for the ecumenical service of choral Evensong in thanksgiving for the life and work of the Blessed John Sullivan SJ in the Church of Ireland Cathedral of St Macartin’s, Enniskillen, on Sunday 15 April, 2018.

The Church of Ireland Archbishop Michael Jackson was joined by Catholic Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, and former Irish Jesuit Provincial Tom Layden represented present Provincial Leonard Moloney SJ. Also in attendance were the Queen’s representative in Fermanagh Lord Lieutenant Brookeborough, the Bishop of Clogher John McDowell, and Head of the Grand Passionist Community in Enniskillen Fr Charles Cross.

Jesuits, colleagues, and friends travelled by bus to County Fermanagh from Dublin, Kildare, and Newry. The Schola Choir from Clongowes with their Director of Liturgy Mr Cyril Murphy joined with the students from Enniskillen Royal Grammar School Choir (formerly Portora) and the St Macartin’s Cathedral Choir in the sung Evensong liturgy. This included Preces and Responses setting by Thomas Tallis, Canticles setting in C by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, and Psalm 23 setting by Howard L Goodall. The schola from Clongowes sang a beautiful rendition of Lord, teach me to be generous, attributed to St Ignatius Loyola, set to music by Mr Cyril Murphy.

In his opening welcome, the Reverend Kenneth Hall, Dean of Clogher, remarked that Blessed John Sullivan as a schoolboy at Portora Royal School would have sat in the very pews the congregation were sitting in for this Evensong. He added: “We are delighted that Archbishop Michael, Archbishop Diarmuid and Fr Tom Layden are with us today as we reflect on the formation of Blessed John’s faith as a schoolboy who loved to spend time on the nearby Devenish Island and his life of prayer and service to others as a priest in Clongowes. We are humbled that so many of you have travelled from across the island of Ireland, and are grateful to the Sullivan family who have come over from England to be with us today.”

In his sermon, Archbishop Michael Jackson thanked the relatives of John Sullivan for requesting that this Evensong take place. He also spoke warmly of the relationship fostered in recent years between the students of Fr John’s former school in Enniskillen and those of Clongowes Wood College. He said that the sharing and listening that took place when the students would meet together was a real contribution to mutual understanding, peace building and healing in Ireland. It was significant that the Clongowes students would come to Enniskillen, and form friendships in a town which had suffered deeply during the troubles, not least with what now has become known as the ‘Enniskillen Bombing’.

Archbishop Diarmuid gave a short reflection at the end of the service and spoke about how Fr John bridged two traditions in this island. He said his Christianity was fostered in the cradle of the Church of Ireland, and the fruit of that fostering was shared with the students of Clongowes and the poor whom he visited and ministered to around Clane and in the hospitals of Dublin. He said Fr John’s holiness was the type of holiness explored by Pope Francis in his just published Apostolic Letter Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and be glad). In that letter Pope Francis speaks of the central importance of the beatitudes and the blessedness of the gentle, the humble, and the poor.

After the Evensong, the congregation was treated to some good northern hospitality with a light supper served in the Cathedral community hall.

The event was live-streamed on Facebook by Irish Jesuit Communiations. One old Portoran from Enniskillen messaged his thanks that he was able to watch the Evensong live from Germany. You can watch the videos on the Irish Jesuits Facebook page. See also the Fr John Sullivan SJ website.