The following account of the life of Fr. John Sullivan is largely taken from the book Father John Sullivan, S.J by Fergal McGrath, S.J.
Father John Sullivan was born in Dublin on the 8th May 1861. His father, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, was a Protestant but his mother was a Catholic. The custom at that time in mixed families was that the daughters would be reared in the mother’s faith and the sons in the father’s. And so, on July 15th, John Sullivan was baptised in St. George’s Protestant Church in Dublin.
In 1873, he entered Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, where he studied for six years, and in 1879, he began his studies at Trinity College, Dublin. He was an outstanding student of the Greek and Latin classical authors and he retained this taste throughout his entire life. Having taken his degree in 1883, John Sullivan entered Law School at Trinity College. During this time, he travelled extensively over continental Europe, going as far as Greece, Macedonia and Asia Minor. Later on in his live, Father Sullivan often entertained others with memories of his travels.
When at home in Ireland, John Sullivan was known as the “best dressed young man in Dublin” – a remark that is amusing knowing his extreme poverty in dress in his later life.