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Ex-Portora pupil Fr John Sullivan put on path to sainthood by Pope

Pope approves beatification of Irish Protestant-turned-Jesuit 'miracle worker'

By Amanda Ferguson

Published 29/04/2016

Honoured: Fr John Sullivan
Honoured: Fr John Sullivan

A former Protestant pupil of Portora Royal School in Enniskillen is on the way to becoming a Catholic saint.

Pope Francis has approved the beatification of Fr John Sullivan, who was raised as a Protestant but later became a Catholic before he entered the Jesuit Order in 1900.

Fr Sullivan, who died at St Vincent's Nursing Home, Dublin, in 1933, was honoured in recognition of his work with the poor, vulnerable, ill and dying in the villages of Co Kildare in the early 20th century.

The Holy See confirmed that the pontiff had approved the attribution of a miracle to the Jesuit priest and teacher, enabling him to be beatified - a step that involves being officially recognised as blessed and that can lead to sainthood at a later date.

Fr Sullivan was associated with a number of miraculous cures throughout his lifetime. Supporters of the former teacher at Clongowes Wood College in Co Kildare have been campaigning for him to be made a saint since the 1940s.

In 1960 he was declared a "Servant of God" and in 2014 was made "Venerable" by Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope.

Born in Dublin in 1861 to a Catholic mother and a Protestant father, Fr Sullivan was educated at Portora, a non-denominational school, governed by the Fermanagh Protestant Board of Education. Portora headmaster Neil Morton said it was one of the "great ironies" of the school that it had produced a beatified Jesuit priest who could be on the way to becoming an Irish Catholic saint.

Mr Morton told the Belfast Telegraph he "loved that idea".

"We are delighted about John Sullivan," he added. "He marks our cross-community, cross-border initiative as Clongowes is our partner school in Co Kildare.

"We have very regular events with them and are very proud of that. John Sullivan was a Church of Ireland Anglican and spent the other half of his life as a Roman Catholic Jesuit Priest. It is quite a story."

Growing up in Victorian Ireland in a wealthy family, Fr Sullivan was the son of Sir Edward Sullivan, a Dublin barrister who later became Lord Chancellor of Ireland, the highest judicial office in the country.

Sir Edward attended Portora and sent his sons to his alma mater. The school has a notable alumni, including Fr Sullivan, playwright Oscar Wilde and Nobel laureate Samuel Beckett.

Mr Morton said this inspired present-day pupils who come from a broad range of socio-economic backgrounds. "The school has gone through all sorts of incarnations and it was quite an elite institution in the 19th and early 20th century," he added.

"We got all these kids from Irish ascendancy families. The school now is Fermanagh's boys' grammar school and has a very wide intake. All the kids are motivated by the past the history. They belong to Portora as much the present guys do."

Fr Sullivan is one of 39 clerics granted papal approval for beatification on Wednesday.

Belfast Telegraph

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