November 12, 2019

An American Deacon and a Blessed Englishman

On November 30, the Massachusetts deacon whose astonishing recovery provided the miracle needed to beatify Blessed John Henry Newman, conducted a healing service at a Michigan parish— the first time he has done so outside his home state.

Deacon Jack Sullivan, 72, read the Gospel at the Sept. 19 Mass at which Pope Benedict proclaimed the 19th-century English cardinal’s beatification before a congregation of more than 50,000 people.

But not only was Deacon Sullivan the beneficiary of a healing that has passed the Vatican’s strict criteria to be called miraculous, but his prayers for Blessed John Newman’s intercession in behalf of others have sometimes been followed by astonishing healings.

His visit to St. Genevieve parish in Plymouth, Michigan came because of a 2009 visit to Massachusetts by a couple from the parish who were seeking his help.

“About two years ago, they called and asked me to pray for them; (the husband) had advanced liver cancer. When they said they lived in Plymouth, I said, ‘Why don’t you just come to one of my healing services, because I’m only about 20 miles from Plymouth?’

“But they explained they meant Plymouth, Mich., not Massachusetts,” Deacon Sullivan recounted.

When they did make the trip last year, they were accompanied by their pastor, Fr. Howard Vogan, and 11 other people.

Deacon Sullivan conducted a healing service for the group on a Friday evening, and “the results were remarkable,” he said. Not only did the man experience an immediate feeling of relief, but “a CAT scan found the cancer had entirely left him.”

The man who was healed died earlier this year from complications of pneumonia, “but his liver was just fine,” Deacon Sullivan said.

Fr. Vogan described Deacon Sullivan as “a very warm, outreaching person who is very dedicated to the Church and very dedicated to helping those who are seeking God’s love.”

Deacon Sullivan’s own healing came in 2000 and 2001. After surgery to repair the torn protective lining around his spinal cord, doctors had told him it would take up to one year before he could walk again.

But that would have meant he would not be able to complete his training to become a permanent deacon for the Boston Archdiocese in time to be ordained with the rest of his classmates.

Having seen on television a member of the religious order founded by Cardinal Newman — the acclaimed theologian and convert from Anglicanism — Deacon Sullivan prayed, “Please Cardinal Newman, help me to walk, so that I can return to my classes and be ordained.”

As he recalls the experience, “suddenly I felt hot all over, very tense and a tingling over my body that lasted a long time.”

Besides a tremendous sense of joy and peace, he also developed a sense of confidence that he could walk.

He recalled how he shouted to a nurse that his pain had disappeared, even though he had been in agony moments earlier.

“The pain had left me, and I was left with a feeling of entire joy and confidence that something special was happening to me,” he said.

He was indeed able to walk, and doctors studying his case in the following months determined he had regained the lifting capability of a 30-year-old man. They were baffled by his recovery, and admitted they had no explanation for it.

But shortly before completing the diaconal formation program, the inflammation and pain returned, once again threatening to postpone or prevent his ordination.

Deacon Sullivan again sought Cardinal Newman’s intercession, and was again healed. This time, tests not only showed the problem had completely gone away, but there also were no signs he had ever been operated on.

Deacon Sullivan began learning more about the life of Cardinal Newman, and contacted the Birmingham Oratory in England to tell them what had happened to him.

“He was perhaps the most prolific writer in the history of humanity,” he said, pointing to the cardinal’s many books and numerous letters. Besides the three oratories he founded, there was also a university in Ireland. “Over a period of time you just come to see God’s providence, not only in Newman’s life, but in all those affected by it,” Deacon Sullivan added.

As the story of his own healing spread, many people sought him out to pray for them, including the mother of a Rhode Island boy who had been injured so badly in an auto accident that family members were urging her to “just pull the plug.” Deacon Sullivan traveled to the boy’s bedside, and that boy just recently completed his first year of college.

More recently, an Ohio woman who saw Deacon Sullivan being interviewed on the EWTN cable TV channel in the weeks before Blessed John Newman’s beatification asked him to pray for her daughter who had RSD Syndrome.

“It causes a deterioration of the bone and tissue, and is perhaps the most painful of diseases. There’s been very little research on it, both because it’s rare and because most of the people who afflicted with it commit suicide,” he explained.

The malady begins in the feet and travels up the legs, Deacon Sullivan continued, saying the daughter – who was in her mid-thirties – had to sit day and night with her feet in a tub of ice water because of the heat given off by the action of the disease.

“I said I’d pray for her daughter, and I had her name on a card in my pocket when I proclaimed the Gospel at the beatification Mass,” he said.

The mother and daughter watched the ceremony on EWTN, and during the telecast “the pain dramatically stopped, and a very accelerated healing took place.”

“Her doctors have said she’d be walking by Christmas,” Deacon Sullivan added.

Asked if this might turn out to be the second miracle needed to move Blessed John Newman from beatification to sainthood, Deacon Sullivan said another candidate — involving a Mexican woman who had prayed to Cardinal Newman after being told her unborn baby was deformed in her womb — is already being investigated. The baby turned out fine.

“It certainly seems to be Newman’s time — and our age needs these things,” he added.

This article originally appeared in The Michigan Catholic and is re-posted with permission.

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Robert DeLaney
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