Friend of the Afflicted
Father John conducted a widespread apostolate during his life as a priest among the sick and suffering around Clongowes. Many also wrote to him from almost every county in Ireland to ask for the intercession of his prayers in their spiritual and temporal needs.
The following accounts of the numerous cures and favours attributed to Father’s prayers display his charity and compassion for the suffering.
(1) In the early winter of 1923, a young man called Anotony Coughlan froM Sallins, a place about five miles from Clongowes, was dangerously ill with pneumonia and pleurisy. One Saturday night, the doctor attending him told his sister that he would not be alive next day. A friend was sent to Clongowes for Father Sullivan. When he arrived, the sick man was barely conscious, but recalled him coming into the room and hearing his confession. Father Sullivan then left the house but, for some unknown reason, returned almost immediately and went up again to the sick-room. He took out of his breast-pocket a crucifix, gave it to the young man to hold, asked him to repeat some prayer and put his hand on Mr. Coughlan’s shoulder, saying, “You’ll be alright.” He also promised to ask one of the parochial clergy to come and anoint him. Immediately when he had gone, Mr. Coughlan began to feel better and told his sister and brother, who had been watching up with him constantly, that they could go to bed that night. Shortly afterwards, one of the curates of the parish arrived and recalled how Mr. Coughlan was fully conscious. Within four of five days, he was out of bed and recovered completely.
(2) In 1928 occurred the cure of Micheál Collins, a nephew of the famous Michael Collins, and then a child of three years old from Celbridge, County Kildare. Up to that time the child had been in perfect health but on the morning of October 8th, his parents were awakened by his violent screaming, and on running into the room where he was sleeping, they found his right leg twisted upward and inward so that the foot was almost touching the chest. He was in great agony and the local doctor, Dr. Charles O’ Connor, declared that he feared it was a case of infantile paralysis after careful examination. Next day, a well-known surgeon was called in to see the child but said he held out little hope for a cure.
The following morning, Micheál’s father heard from two woodmen about Fr. Sullivan’s holiness and the cures attributed to him. He and his wife decided to ask Father for his intercession and Mrs. Collins herself drove over to Clongowes. Fr. Sullivan consoled her when she told him about her son – “Do not worry” – and promised to say Mass next morning for the child.
That evening, Micheál was removed to the Mater hospital to the children’s ward. For the following four days, no change occurred in his condition. On October 16th, Mrs. Collins received a postcard from Fr. Sullivan, saying that he had just seen the child and was delighted to hear he was going home well. Mrs. Collins had heard nothing of this improvement and hurried to the hospital, where she found the boy completely cured with full use of his leg. The Sister in charge of Micheál told her that Father Sullivan had arrived on his bicycle from Clongowes, prayed over the child for a long time and touched his leg. Micheál was brought home the next day and grew up particularly strong and well.
(3) A certain lady from Kildare held Father Sullivan in great esteem. She emigrated to America about 1915 and on arriving there, she learned to her sorrow that her brother and his wife, the mother of a family of six school-age children, were some years absent from the sacraments. at her request, Father Sullivan offered Holy Mass for them and on that day, or the next day, they both went to church to make their confession, received Holy Communion and remained faithful until their death.
(4) A nun in a Dublin convent had her arm amputated and was suffering terrible pain. Father Sullivan was asked by telegram to visit her. In a few hours he appeared on his bicycle (a most dilapidated one), having ridden from Clongowes to the hospital in Dublin, a journey of twenty miles. He went to the sick room, and remained there for a couple of hours, praying with suffering invalid. At the end, the nun felt great relief and fell asleep. The nuns then came to offer Father some refreshment, but he slipped away and was off to Clongowes on his bicycle.