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Fr. Charles D. Sullivan, SJ, was as ardent in the exercise of his ministry as he was in person. From his ordination in 1972, Fr. Sullivan’s priestly ministry extended in three directions, teaching, retreat direction, and coaching (basketball being his sport). No less an authority than “Digger” Phelps, the legendary basketball coach of the University of Notre Dame (1971-1991) and later ESPN commentator, appreciated the full range of Fr. Sullivan’s priestly service that was not confined to coaching basketball: “You will not find a person who represents the values of Fordham Prep, its students, and the Jesuit community better than Charlie. His dedication to teaching and serving the young men of Fordham Prep for over 40 years has prepared many academically and spiritually for the years ahead. Add to this his commitment to coaching and impacting young men in the field of athletics and you have a deserving person for this special honor,” the “special honor” being his 2011 induction in the Fordham Prep Hall of Honor. Phelps spoke from a long association with Fr. Sullivan who had a 30-year relationship with Notre Dame’s Summer Youth Basketball Camp, which overlapped with Phelps.

Testifying to Fr. Sullivan’s effectiveness in teaching math, Patrick Conway, the chair of the Prep’s Math Department and a friend, wrote that Charlie was “the ideal teacher: always prepared with a clear concise presentation of the material.” In addition to his teaching and coaching, the third aspect of his ministry was Fr. Sullivan’s hearty commitment to the Emmaus Retreat Program from 1990, organizing dozens of retreats, as well as arranging service trips to assist Habitat for Humanity. He collected and treasured the wooden Emmaus crosses that are part of the retreat, one cross from each of the many retreats in which he was involved, each numbered and dated with an attached list of the students and faculty who participated. These retreats were opportunities for communicating a virtue that he always found immensely important for high school students – helping them to grow in confidence in their own gifts and talents. As Pat Conway noted, “His students’ desire to have him not just present, but intimately involved in the most important moments of their lives speaks to the impact he has had in his work at the Prep.”

Among Fr. Sullivan’s personal conclusions regarding his ministry, one involves a possible wordplay on the Jesuit Latin term magis. “There’s something special, a kind of ‘magic’ in what we do. Hard to put a finger on it. We want our students to value themselves, and to value God’s place in our lives.”

Fr. Sullivan exercised his three-pronged ministry at Fordham Prep for 49 years, 1970-2019 (counting his two “Woodstock years”). In four of his last years at Fordham, he was also Superior of Kohlman Hall, the Jesuit retirement center on the Fordham campus.

Charles Delano Sullivan was born in Baltimore, MD, on August 28, 1939, the youngest of the three children of Daniel Sullivan, Jr., a contractor, and Helen Roosevelt Delano Sullivan, a homemaker. With his sister Doris Delano Bissette of Berlin, MD (d. 2007) and brother Daniel Nicholas Sullivan of Parkville, MD (d. 2022), he grew up just blocks away from Johns Hopkins University. He early experienced Catholic and Jesuit education by attending Loyola Blakefield High School and Loyola College in Baltimore. At the end of his junior year of college in 1960, he applied to the Society of Jesus and was accepted. After two years (1960-62) in the novitiate of St. Isaac Jogues in Wernersville, PA, he did philosophical studies at Shrub Oak, NY (1963-1965). Furthering his talent in math, he earned an M.A. in math at Boston College (1965-1966) and then spent regency teaching math at Georgetown Prep and the lower school in North Bethesda, MD (1966-1969). His theology studies were done at Woodstock College, at that time celebrated for its renowned faculty. After two years spent in its largely rural environment in Maryland, Woodstock College moved to the Upper West Side of Manhattan in order to be closer to the ecumenical possibilities opened up by the Second Vatican Council. Proximity to Fordham Prep enabled him to begin teaching there in 1970 even while he was enrolled in Woodstock College. On June 3, 1972, Charlie was ordained a priest at Loyola College in Baltimore by Lawrence Cardinal Sheehan, and shortly thereafter was assigned to teach math at Fordham Prep. Little did he realize that he would become a key figure in the spiritual, academic, and athletic facets of the Fordham Prep experience for the next five decades.

In 2019, declining health forced him to retire. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and moved to Campion Center, the Jesuit health care facility in Weston, MA. As the disease progressed, Fr. Sullivan fought hard to move about with his diminishing physical resources. Fellow Jesuits at Campion looked on with admiration as he struggled, going from cane to walker to wheel chair, never complaining nor giving up striving. It was easy to see the same energy that made him such a successful coach and teacher still at work in his last years. His courageous struggles finally ended in the early hours of May 13, 2024, when Fr. Sullivan died peacefully at Campion Center.