Venerable John Sullivan - Clongowes Wood College

Posted: 12th November 2014

Venerable John Sullivan, S.J.

On Friday November 7th Pope Francis approved the recommendation of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints that the Servant of God, Father John Sullivan, S.J., be declared Venerable. This is a cause for much rejoicing here at Clongowes among his fellow-Jesuits, the teaching Staff and students of the College, where the Venerable spent most of his priestly life.

This declaration implies that Fr Sullivan lived out the three Christian and four human virtues to a heroic degree. The specifically Christian virtues are faith, hope and charity.  The human virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance, first identified by the philosophers of pre-Christian Greece still maintain all their validity.

One miracle is now required for the Beatification of Venerable John and a further one for his ultimate Canonisation.

Bernard J. McGuckian S.J.

Father John Sullivan, S.J.

The name of the saintly Fr John Sullivan will always be synonymous with the People’s Church in Clongowes, where he ministered for many years. John Sullivan was born in Dublin on the 8th May 1861. He was the child of a mixed marriage, was raised a Protestant and was received into the Catholic Church in 1896. He was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1907 and was appointed to the academic staff at Clongowes, where he was to spend most of the rest of his life.

Fr John lived an austere and frugal life in the school and was renowned for his asceticism throughout the surrounding countryside. He was always available to the needy, the poor and the infirm of the locality. People came to him from far and wide to seek his blessing and his prayers. Fr John was a familiar sight on the roads around Clongowes as he cycled his old bicycle or walked at a brisk, trotting pace usually on his way to visit someone who was sick.

To this day his memory is held in great reverence in the locality and many people visit the People’s Church to pray to him. He died on the 19th February 1933 and was buried in the Community Cemetery at Clongowes. In 1960 he was declared a Servant of God and his mortal remains were transferred from Clongowes to St Francis Xavier’s Church, Gardiner Street, Dublin. Since then his cause for canonisation has been making steady progress in Rome and we pray that this will continue to a successful conclusion.

For more on Fr John Sullivan visit:

This material is largely taken from A Short History of Clongowes Wood College, which was privately published in 2011 by Mr Brendan Cullen, a local historian and formerly teacher of history in Clongowes (1971-2007). It is reproduced here by kind permission of the author. We are also indebted to Jesuit Communications Ireland for the image accompanying this piece.

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