Church of Ireland Archbishop Michael Jackson has praised the life and legacy of Fr John Sullivan SJ in a recent address at his alma mater, Portora Royal School, Enniskillen. Proposing the toast at the school, the Archbishop said Fr John could be seen as representing, “A form of spiritual reconciliation in post Troubles Ireland.”
John Sullivan was the child of a mixed marriage, his mother a Catholic, and his father, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, was a Protestant. John was sent to Protora as a young boy where he studied Classics. He went on to do further study in Trinity College Dublin and trained as a barrister in London. He converted to Catholicism in 1896 after his father’s death and in 1902 he joined the Jesuits. He spent most of his life teaching (not too well!) at Clongowes Wood College. But he was loved by the boys and by the local people in Kildare and further afield. He was renowned for riding his bicycle, often for miles, to visit a family where someone was sick or in trouble. He developed a reputation for kindness, holiness and healing and popular devotion to him after his death lead to him being declared Venerable two years ago. His beatification is expected shortly.
According to Conor Haper SJ, Vice-Postulator for the Fr John Sullivan cause, Archbishop Jackson has been a great support in promoting the message of the power of prayer, love of the poor and the healing grace of God that John Sullivan embodied in his life. “For one half of his life John Sullivan was a Protestant and for the other, a Catholic. You could say that we have reaped the seeds that were sown in his early life”, says Fr Harper.
In his address in Portora, Archbishop Jackson commended the strong links that have been cultivated by Portora and Clongowes colleges. He said he was heartened to see members of the staff of Portora as well as students form Portora and Clongowes, attending the service in Christ Church Cathedral in June, commemorating John Sullivan. He spoke of the value of students crossing the border to spend time with each other. And he praised the courage of the young boys from Clongowes who for years, on Remembrance Sunday, had come to Enniskillen, to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph.
In concluding the toast address he said, “It is surely remarkable that the cause of an Old Portoran is being advanced at the same time as that of Oscar Romero, an international name and another, yet different, advocate of the poor and downtrodden… both point to the poor and needy as the focus of human conscience and of God’s care and grace”.