Aug. 3, 2018 - Fr. William M. Sullivan, SJ, was called to eternal life on Aug. 3, 2018. Fr. Sullivan died at Murray-Weigel Hall, Bronx, N.Y. He was born on April 21, 1936, in Brooklyn, N.Y., entered the Society of Jesus at St. Andrew-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on July 30, 1953, and was ordained on June 9, 1966, at Fordham University, Bronx, N.Y. He pronounced his final vows on August 15, 1975, at Fordham University, Bronx, N.Y.
Father Sullivan’s younger brother, Patrick, also a resident of Murray-Weigel Hall, has selected some major turning points in his brother’s life.
Bill Sullivan graduated from Brooklyn Prep on 1953 and entered the Society of Jesus at St. Andrew-on-Hudson. He spent juniorate at Bellarmine College in Plattsburgh before philosophy at Shrub Oak, regency in the Philippines for three years before theology at Woodstock, Md., and teacher of anthropology at Fordham Prep.
He spent 12 years as chaplain on Kwajalein Island [where he] did all the tasks of a parish priest from Catechism lessons to children to preparing the older ones for first communion and confirmation. He loved his years on Kwajalein.
Upon returning home he continued weekend ministry at various parishes before a debilitating stroke forced him to join the community at Murray-Weigel Hall.
Fr. Patrick J. Sullivan, SJ
By Fr. Ray Schroth, S.J.
Like all Jesuits Bill went along with the rule to “go to all places,” to both study more deeply and meet the various pastoral needs of schools and countries. At the Ateneo and Xavier universities in Manila, he taught Latin, English and religion. Back in the U.S., he studied anthropology at Columbia University from 1968 to 1972. Next he was assistant dean at Fordham College until 1975, when he switched to Fordham Prep to teach anthropology and English. Next came the high point, 1982-1986, of teaching his favorite subject, film, plus theology and English at Canisius High School in Buffalo. A fellow teacher remembers how Bill used colored chalk and crayons to illustrate ideas and get students’ attention in different ways. His “encyclopedic” knowledge of classic films was due to David Thompson’s Have You Seen? An Introduction of 1000 Films and to Thompson’s New Biographical Dictionary of Films, used in class and homilies.
His next move was pastoral —three years in campus ministry at Canisius College, followed by the job as minister at St. Andrew Hall in Syracuse and a flight across the Pacific to Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands where he would be chaplain at the military test site, plus pastor of a great variety of men and women in need of God’s presence.
Clearly these 12 years were a high point in Bill’s priesthood. Somewhere along the line he told his story by constructing a three-by-four -foot framed poster for his room, in which he posts over 30 photos of his life among his congregation, starting from a view of the swimming pool, where he swam regularly, in the lower left-hand corner, and rising group shots of happy families at public events, a dance, many dinners, a parade and a few shots of a sturdy priest preaching.
My strongest memory of Bill has always been the film seminar he ran for his fellow theologians at Woodstock College in the woods outside Baltimore. First, of course, the selected film would be a foreign French or Italian classic. We gathered at tables set in a circle with the understanding that everyone would be able to speak as he systematically turned to each one of us at the end of the film. We would be free to pass, but no one would speak twice until everyone had had his chance. Bill would lead the conversation in a way that inspired all to pitch in. We would often keep talking about it at dinner, then watch it again the next day to spot the glances, side remarks and conflicts we had missed the day before.
In the long run, though not intending, he was teaching other young Jesuits how to teach, how to conduct those precious hours of classroom conversation when we taught John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, a novel I think all Jesuit high schools taught and which Bill kept in his personal library.
Following his return from the Pacific, Bill moved into Murray-Weigel Hall. His high point there was witnessed by all his fellow Jesuits who will long remember the visit of Bill’s family. Similar visits teach us all more about one another and encourage us to love and serve.
Jesuit Cemetery, Auriesville, NY