Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare & Leighlin diocese was the principal celebrant at the annual anniversary Mass in thanksgiving for the soon to be beatified, Venerable Fr. John Sullivan SJ, in Clongowes Wood College on Sunday 8 May. The Boys Chapel in Clongowes was full long before the ceremony began while an overflow gathering followed the Mass on a large screen in the People’s Church and assembly areas of the school.
In his homily for the Mass, which celebrated the anniversary of the birth of John Sullivan, Bishop Nulty began by referring to the news from Rome that Pope Francis had approved the decree that authenticated a miracle attributed to Fr John Sullivan on 27 April. He said the announcement of Fr John being declared ‘Blessed’ has happened very soon after he was declared Venerable but was following the presentation of “very detailed documentation and testimonies” to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in April 2004. “So if anyone thinks this is a fast track for John Sullivan or maybe convenient that we have a Pope who himself is a Jesuit, nothing could be further from the truth”, the Bishop remarked.
According to the Bishop Nulty “Blessed Elect John Sullivan is held up for all of us now as a heroic example of virtue, goodness and holiness”. The bishop reflected on his legacy and his influence, which is still very much appreciated. He referred to the “stories of deep devotion and fervent faith in John Sullivan” which he continues to hear as he travels around the Diocese. Recognising the fact that Fr John spent most of his life as a Jesuit in Clongowes, Bishop Nulty said it was very appropriate to gather there “to say thanks for whatever favour we have received, whatever intention has been answered or for whatever healing we needed”.
Reading the biography of the life of Fr John Sullivan gave Bishop Nulty “an appreciation of how important it is for boys, for young men to have good priestly role models and mentors”. The Bishop said that in his role as a Spiritual Director in Clongowes Fr John had a great desire to to bring out the best in the boys. “The fatherly care he showed the boys in their boarding school loneliness was genuinely cherished”, he said, explaining that the students in Clongowes recognised the holiness of Fr John, appreciated the interest he took in them and were delighted to go to Confession to him.
Recognising that the Church is almost midway through the Jubilee Year of Mercy Bishop Nulty noted how John Sullivan had said “God always leaves the door unlatched” and that it’s up to us to walk through. He stated that it is significant that the devotion which is most associated with Fr. John Sullivan is centred on being blessed with his Cross. “Maybe it’s a good time as we give thanks for the life and witness of Blessed Elect John Sullivan today to ask ourselves have we a crucifix in our own homes, maybe a small one in our pocket, purse or car?” the Bishop pondered. Reflecting on how the cross represents for many people triumph over suffering and an end to sickness, Bishop Nulty concluded by praying ”as we gather in Clongowes to commemorate Blessed Elect John Sullivan, and we continue our prayers that one day he may be honoured with the greatest accolade of all – Sainthood”.
Before the conclusion of Mass Conor Harper SJ, Vice-Postulator for the Cause of Fr. John Sullivan thanked Cáit Cullen and the team around her who promote the Annual Anniversary Mass. He also thanked the congregation for their devotion to Fr John and for keeping his memory alive, and he gave particular mention to Hector Lyold, one of the closest living relatives to Fr. John, who travelled to attend the Mass. Hundreds of people queued for a blessing with the Fr John Sullivan cross from Fr Paul Farquharson SJ before availing of the hospitality of refreshments offered by the Clongowes Community.
Click here to read the homily of Bishop Denis Nulty at the Venerable Fr John Sullivan Anniversary Mass.