Fr Leonard Moloney SJ, the Irish Jesuit Provincial, blessed a new shrine in St Ignatius Church Galway, dedicated to Blessed John Sullivan SJ. The dedication ceremony took place during the 11am Mass on Sunday 12 May, where Fr Martin Curry SJ presided and gave the homily.
Fr Curry spoke to the large congregation present about the life of Fr John Sullivan SJ, his care of the sick and the poor, and his long hours of prayer, fasting and self-discipline. “We are not called to imitate his way of life of austerity and constant prayer,” he said. He added, however, that we are indeed “called to perfection in whatever calling we are in, and we can seek his intercession for the graces we need to reach holiness in our own life”.
Fr Curry said that John Sullivan was not a martyr, like the other Irish Jesuit, Blessed Dominic Collins, who was hanged by the British forces in Youghal. Rather, “John Sullivan lived his life as an ordinary Christian, but received special graces and gifts from God.”
After the homily, Fr Moloney said the prayer of dedication at the shrine (read full text below). The shrine features a portrait of Fr John, a display case which contains a piece of his Jesuit gown (cassock), and the medal which was struck on the occasion of his beatification. Alongside the shrine on the church wall is a one-page summary of his life.
Fr John Sullivan spent the first half of his life as a Protestant; his father was a member of the Church of Ireland and his mother was a Catholic. The Church of Ireland has been very much part of Fr John’s beatification process. In fact, he has often been called the saint who ‘bridges the two traditions’. So especially welcome at the dedication ceremony were Professor Steve Ellis (Member of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland), Ms. Gráinne Walshe (Church warden, Church of Ireland), and Ms. Sinéad Anthony (Church warden and teacher in Coláiste Iognáid).
Also present in the congregation were people who had a connection with or deep devotion to Fr John. One woman, whose husband had died of a brain tumour, had been praying to Fr John for his healing. Through a serious of providential events she managed to get her husband a blessing with the cross belonging to Fr John that is kept in Gardiner St church. The blessing brought her and her husband great peace and consolation. She said that throughout her prayers she felt that Fr John was with her, and her husband felt that too. Another lady came with a medal that Fr John had presented to her father, who was a pupil in Clongowes Wood, the college where Fr John taught and spent most of his adult life.
Since the beatification of Fr John in May last year more and more people have been expressing an interest in him and his life, according to Fr Curry. The shrine in Galway, he added, is now a place where people can come and pray and feel the comfort of his intercession on their behalf.
Prayer for the Dedication of the Shrine of Blessed John Sullivan SJ
God, our Father, sacred images of holy men and women remind us of their extraordinary dedication to you and of lives totally spent in your service. They encourage us to imitate their dedication and service in our own lives.
Blessed John Sullivan came to know and love you through the spirituality of the Church of Ireland and later of the Catholic Church. May this shrine, constructed in his honour, help us to recall how he gave up his comfortable lifestyle and career to dedicate himself fully to you as a priest in the Society of Jesus. He lived that life in great simplicity and self-denial, with constant prayer, and with an overwhelming concern for the poor, and for those who were ill or needed your consolation. And you answered his prayers by encouraging all and curing many of those he prayed for.
Bless this shrine so that all those who pray here and ask, through Blessed John’s intercession, for your favour may be consoled by your grace and friendship. May they be granted what they ask for, if that is to your greater glory and praise. And may they all be brought in time to live in your presence for ever. We ask this through Christ, Our Lord.
(The shrine is sprinkled with Holy Water)
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.