Biography of Right Rev. John F. Sullivan, D. D.

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The Church of the Holy Trinity, Central Falls, Rhode Island, is fortunate in having for its pastor the able leader and distinguished writer, Monsignor John F. Sullivan, D. D., who has been in charge here since 1912.

Holy Trinity Parish of Central Falls was formed from portions of St. Patrick’s Parish, Valley Falls; Sacred Heart Parish, Pawtucket; and from a portion of the parent parish of the first two, St. Mary’s of Pawtucket. Land was purchased in July, 1889, more was bought that same year, and on September 15, 1889, the cornerstone of the church was laid. The building was enclosed by December 20th of that year, and on the second Sunday of February, 1890, the first Mass was celebrated in the basement. All this was accomplished before the actual organization of the new parish, which took place in the spring of 1890. Rev. Patrick Farrelly was made the first pastor, and he carried forward the task of completing the church, which was dedicated May 23, 1892. A parochial residence was built in 1894, and for a long period of years Father Farrelly devoted his ability and his entire energy to the advancement of the spiritual and material welfare of the parish. Growth has been steady and vigorous, and at the present time (1930) the parish of Holy Trinity numbers about 3,400 souls. A modern and well-equipped school building was erected and opened in 1906, and its enrollment has grown until sixteen Sisters of Our Lady of the Presentation are engaged in the work of teaching and directing. In the eighth and ninth grades a junior high school course is now taught, entitling the graduated pupils to enter the second year in any high school. The school is considered one of the best in the State. An outstanding feature of the parochial activities of Holy Trinity is the Community House, which adjoins the school building, and which is one of the finest of its kind in Rhode Island. It is equipped with every facility for the healthful amusement and physical development of the young people of the parish, a gymnasium and dressing rooms, four bowling alleys, six pool tables, a hall especially equipped for moving pictures, a library, rooms for playing cards, and, one of the most popular features, a swimming pool. A good instructor is provided, and nearly all the boys and girls of the parish, even the very young ones, have been taught to swim. Many of them are experts and well qualified to teach the others. The plans for the building were drawn by the pastor and he takes a deep interest in all the activities conducted in its well-equipped rooms.

The Right Rev. John F. Sullivan, D. D., was born in Newport, Rhode Island, August 27, 1867, son of Thomas Sullivan, a contractor, and Catherine (Fitzgerald) Sullivan. He attended the public schools of Newport and St. Mary’s parochial school, from which he was graduated in 1883. In that year he entered Mount St. Mary’s College, at Emmitsburg, Maryland, and later he continued his studies at Manhattan College, in New York City, where he completed his course with graduation in June, 1886. Having chosen to dedicate his life to the service of Holy Church, he entered St. Mary’s Seminary at Baltimore, Maryland, from which he was graduated in June, 1889, with the degree of Bachelor of Theology. [In the Catholic University of America, at Washington, D. C., he continued his studies from 1889 to 1891, and on June 24, 1891, he was ordained a priest, the ordination service taking place in the Cathedral at Providence, Rhode Island. After ordination he was appointed an assistant in St. Mary’s Church, Providence, where he served until 1904, in which year he was made a pastor and given charge of a small parish, St. Agnes’ Church on Branch Avenue, in Providence, where he remained for eight years. In 1912 he was appointed to his present charge as pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Central Falls, where he is still (1930) serving with marked ability and deep devotion. Since that time Holy Trinity has been made a permanent rectorship. During the sixteen years of his pastorate the parish has grown in membership and has been greatly strengthened in all its many spiritual and social activities. The community house mentioned above represents a vast outlay of time, means, and energy, and brings a rich return in both spiritual and material values. Three assistants, Rev. Peter P. Hussey, John P. McGuire, and Rev. John J. Keeney, aid in the parochial work, carrying out effectively the plans made by the pastor, and exerting a strong influence for good among the young men and women of Holy Trinity.

Along with his parish responsibilities, Father Sullivan has been engaged in literary work from 1917 to the present time, and through his published works has exerted a sound and wholesome influence throughout the country and, in some cases, throughout the Catholic world. He is the author of three books which are accepted as authority in Catholic schools and churches, namely: “The Externals of the Catholic Church,” a standard work describing its ceremonies, devotions, festivals, laws, etc., known everywhere; “The Visible Church,” a text-book for Catholic colleges and high schools, of which 100,000 copies have been sold and which is used in some four hundred schools; and “The Fundamentals of Catholic Belief,” a doctrinal and scientific explanation of the Catholic faith. In addition to these well known works, Father Sullivan has contributed copiously to various religious and scientific magazines, and he has written one hundred and twenty articles for the New Catholic Dictionary. His books are published by P. J. Kenedy & Sons, New York City. He is deeply interested in geology and in the theory of evolution and his articles on these subjects have called forth much favorable notice from the clergy, the laity, and from the leading magazines. He is also devoted to the study of astronomy and owns a very fine telescope fitted with all the most modern attachments and adjustments, some of which were made in accordance with his suggestions. Because of the distinction attained by his literary work, St. Mary’s Seminary, of Baltimore, from which he was graduated in 1889, conferred upon Father Sullivan the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1925. On April 27, 1929, Pope Pius X elevated him to the dignity of Domestic Prelate, with the title of Monsignor.

Father Sullivan has the sincere respect and the entire confidence of his parishioners and stands very high in the esteem of the dignitaries of the Catholic Church throughout the country. His devoted Christian character, his brilliant mind, his understanding and sympathetic heart have enabled him to render a great and worthy service, and all who know him hope that many more years of service lie before him.

Monsignor Sullivan’s death occurred July 19, 1930, after this record had been submitted to him.

Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.

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