Fr John Sullivan from Dublin is known for his work with the sick and dying in the early 20th century and has officially been declared “Blessed” by the Pontiff.
His beautification may now lead the way to a sainthood, an honor his supporters have been pushing for since the 1940s. In order to become a saint, a miracle must be attributed to the nominee’s name. Included in the list of acts that constitute a miracle is to die for the Catholic faith.
Their campaign resulted in him being declared a “Servant of God” in 1960, and Pope Francis also made him a “Venerable” in 2014.
Born into a wealthy Protestant family in 1861 on Eccles St in the heart of Dublin city, his family were surprised when he made the decision to convert to Catholicism in 1896, despite his mother being Catholic.
Fr Sullivan joined the Jesuit novitiate four years later, becoming a teacher in renowned boarding school Clongowes Wood College in Co. Kildare, the oldest Catholic school in Ireland, which was attended by the likes of James Joyce, Thomas Francis Meagher and The O’Rahilly.
Fr Sullivan's determination to live a life of poverty and help the sick led devotion to him to spread across the country both before and after his death and his legacy is still alive today. Just a few years ago, his words were used by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in his final speech as head of the Irish government.
There are also several miracles speculated to have occurred to those who prayed with Fr Sullivan, including the healing of Michael Collins, the nephew of the famous Michael Collins who fought in the Easter Rising, War of Independence and Civil War.
As Fr Sullivan took his last breath on February 19, 1933, he held in his hand his mother’s cross which he had permission to take as his Jesuit cross when he took his vows some three decades previous. Catholics in Ireland still travel to Gardiner St. Church in Dublin to visit the cross and use it in prayer if they are suffering with an ailment or need some spiritual help.
Others included on the list approved for beautification by the Pope this week were Albanian Bishop Vincent Prennushi who died by torture in prison in Albania in 1948 for declaring that a separate Albanian church should be established in the then communist state. Albania became the first atheist state in the world in 1967.
The remainder of the list was made up of 37 Albanian clerics and aspiring clerics who died as martyrs between 1945 and 1967.