Sullivan, Father Daniel David

1984, September 22

Date of Birth: 1904, March 14

A prayer to go to sleep in this world and to wake up in heaven was uttered by our Sulpician brother, Daniel David Sullivan, not long before he died on September 22 in his sleep in his own bed at St. Charles Villa. He was a member of the group of retired confreres who first moved to the Villa in 1971, and, by one month, he was the last survivor of that number.

Daniel Sullivan was born in Fall River, MA, on March 14, 1904, one of several children of James Edward and Jane P. (nee Murphy) Sullivan. Only one brother, James E., Jr., and one sister, Helena V., reached adulthood, and both preceded their brother in death. Baptized in Sacred Heart Church, he would also celebrate his first Mass, and later preside at the funeral Masses of his parents in the same church. His grandfather, father, and brother were funeral directors in Fall River, where Daniel received his elementary and secondary school education. He entered Holy Cross College, Worcester, at the age of sixteen, from which he graduated four years later in 1924 with a B.A. in philosophy.

The next two years were spent at St. Bernard’s Seminary, Rochester, NY, in theological studies, followed by a leave for a year at The Catholic University, Washington, D.C. where he earned an M.A. in Latin. By then Daniel had become attracted to a teaching career and made an inquiry to the Society of St. Sulpice in Baltimore. To become acquainted with his qualifications for seminary teaching, the Sulpicians appointed him to the faculty of St. Charles College, Catonsville, after which he entered St. Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore, for a final year of preparation for ordination to the priesthood. Bishop James Cassidy of Fall River had released Daniel to the Archdiocese of Baltimore from the jurisdiction of Fall River in 1930 but ordained him in the Cathedral of Fall River on May 30, 1931.

That autumn Father Sullivan returned to The Catholic University for graduate studies in classical languages and earned his Ph.D. in 1933, followed by the year of Sulpician formation at St. Charles, whereupon he formally entered the Society in 1934. His first assignment as a Sulpician was at St. Edward’s Seminary, Seattle, WA, where he taught not only Latin and Greek but, reluctantly, chemistry also. From 1939 to 1942, he took on the extra task of procurator for the Sulpician community in Seattle, where he showed himself a competent and careful administrator. From 1942 to 1968, he was a member of the faculty of St. Charles College, where he no longer taught chemistry but religion, along with Latin and Greek and, for several years, French and German, also. For one year, 1957-1958, he was on sick leave from the College. For some thirty-five years during this period of his life, Father Sullivan stayed for a portion of the summer at his family home near the shore in Tiverton, RI, and served as chaplain for a group of women religious at their summer place in Nanaquaket.

An accomplished linguist who often served the Society with his translation skills, Father Sullivan, nevertheless, did not easily reach out to people. He enjoyed an easy familiarity with members of his family, with students who sought him out as a spiritual director, and with a few priest and lay friends, whose love and loyalty ran very deep. To others he found it difficult to express the warmth of the love he felt and thus seemed remote and aloof to them.

His bouts with depression were accentuated with the changing conditions of the late 1960s, when the classical languages lost their pre-eminence in seminary studies, when almost every aspect of priestly formation seemed to be altered, when both the Society he had entered and the Church he loved adopted different styles. His retiring nature turned ever more inward.

In 1968, Father Sullivan asked to be relieved of his seminary duties, and, with the consent of his superiors, began a parish ministry in southern Maryland, assisting, first, the pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Waldorf until 1970, and for another year the pastor of St. Joseph’s in Morganza. Reaching the fortieth anniversary of his ordination, he took the opportunity to retire from active ministry with the opening of St. Charles Villa. For some time, however, he continued to assist on weekends at the parishes of St. Brigid’s and Holy Cross in Baltimore.

In his retirement years, Father Sullivan preferred to be alone much of the time, while still enjoying the company of nearby cousins and devoted friends. He was the beneficiary also of the generous ministrations of the Little Sisters of the Poor both at the Villa and during some long stays in the infirmary of St. Martin’s Home. Seriously ill with congestive heart failure during the last weeks of his life, Father Sullivan found the strength to reach out to people who came to see him with a cheerful, friendly, and optimistic spirit. The desire not to inflict himself on others was overcome by his wish to enter into the peace of the Lord’s eternal kingdom, and he died peacefully.

On September 25, following a wake service the previous evening led by the Rev. Vincent M. Eaton, S.S., the Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated by the Provincial Superior, the Very Rev. Edward J. Frazer, S.S., with the Rev. John W. Bowen, S.S., delivering the homily. At his request, Father Sullivan was buried on September 27 in the family plot in St. Patrick’s cemetery, Fall River, with services led by the Rev. Msgr. Alfred J. Gendreau, a long-time colleague.

May Father Daniel Sullivan live forever in the joy of the Resurrection.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

William J. Lee, S.S.

Provincial Secretary