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Fr. John Sullivan in his twenties. Photos courtesy of the Irish Jesuits
Irish Jesuit Fr. John Sullivan, Catholic Healer, to be Beatified May 13

May 10, 2017 — Irish Jesuit Father John Sullivan, remembered for his healing prayers, his consolation for the troubled and his devotion to God, will be beatified on May 13 at St. Francis Xavier Church in Dublin, where the Jesuit priest's body was interred.

Fr. Sullivan will become the first-ever person to be beatified in Ireland when two archbishops — one Catholic and one Anglican — present the solemn petition asking that he be declared blessed.

That is unusual, but Fr. Sullivan's life straddled two centuries, two traditions and two cultures.

Born in 1861, one of five children, Fr. Sullivan grew up in privileged conditions in Ireland and Britain. He was raised in the Protestant tradition of his father, Sir Edward Sullivan, who rose to be lord chancellor of Ireland. His mother, Elizabeth, was a devout Catholic.

At Trinity College Dublin, he excelled in his studies of the classics. He was an avid tennis player and was dubbed "the best-dressed man in Dublin."

In 1885, the year of his father's death, Fr. Sullivan went to London to study law. He traveled extensively and even considered becoming a monk at one of the Orthodox monasteries on Mount Athos in Greece. In 1896, at 35, he became a Catholic.

His reception into the Catholic Church marked a complete break with the life he had lived. Returning to his affluent home in Dublin, he stripped his room down to the floor boards and spent much time visiting the poor and dying. Four years later, he entered the Jesuits.

From the time of his ordination in 1907, reports of miraculous healings began. Cures for meningitis, breast cancer, tuberculosis, infantile paralysis and many other illnesses were all attributed to his prayers during his lifetime. He willingly cycled long distances to spend hours praying at a patient's bedside while working as a teacher in Clongowes Wood School in County Kildare.

After his death in 1933, his graveside in Clongowes became a place of pilgrimage. The healings continued.

Jesuit Father Conor Harper, vice postulator of Fr. Sullivan’s sainthood cause, said hundreds of miracles have been attributed to his intercession, many within living memory.

Neil Morton, former headmaster of the school where Fr. Sullivan was educated, says Portora Roayl School in Enniskillen is "proud of being the only Protestant school in the history of Ireland that can boast of having a Catholic saint."

But for Fr. Harper, Fr. Sullivan's real greatness is that "he is a priest of the poor and the sick — that is why he is known." [Sources: CNS, Catholic News Agency]

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