Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Sullivan, Jeremiah (1877–1960)

by J. Eddy

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Jeremiah Sullivan (1877-1960), Jesuit priest and philosopher, was born on 31 December 1877 at Preston, Melbourne, tenth of fourteen children of Irish-born parents Eugene Sullivan, farmer, and his wife Mary, née Doran. Jeremiah attended the convent school at Heidelberg and St Patrick's College, Melbourne. He entered the Society of Jesus on 8 September 1894 at Loyola, Greenwich, Sydney, and was a novice under Fr Aloysius Sturzo. After studying literature and classics, he taught (1899-1905) at St Ignatius' College, Riverview, where he was prefect of discipline, debating and rowing.

In 1905 Sullivan sailed via Ireland to England to read philosophy (1905-08) at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire. He proceeded to theology, first at Milltown Park, Dublin (1908-09), then at Innsbruck, Austria (1909-11)—where he was ordained priest on 26 July 1911—and finally at Posillipo, near Naples, Italy. 'Spot' (as he was nicknamed) was back in Ireland, at Tullabeg College, for his tertianship (1912-13). Returning to Sydney and Riverview, he was prefect of studies (from 1913). In 1917-23 he was rector of Xavier College, Melbourne, where he was also prefect of studies (from 1919). During this period the college acquired Burke Hall in Studley Park Road, Kew.

In 1923 Sullivan became the first native-born superior of the Jesuits' 'Irish Mission' in Australia. He visited Rome and Ireland several times. As a superior, he consistently showed good judgement; he was mild and generous, but could be firm when necessary. The last superior before Australia was raised to the rank of a Jesuit vice-province at Easter 1931, Sullivan was better liked by his men than either his predecessor Fr William Lockington or his successor Fr John Fahy. He again spent some months at Xavier, as headmaster in 1931, and was the sole Catholic member of the fledgling Headmasters' Conference of Australia, which was founded that year. In 1931-34 he served as superior at the parish of Hawthorn. From 1935 to 1946 he lived at the regional seminary, Corpus Christi Ecclesiastical College, Werribee, as administrator, consultor, and professor of pastoral theology and philosophy. His students regarded him as a genuinely humane Australian priest. While rector (1946-52) of Loyola College, Watsonia, he continued to teach and became a father-figure to the many young men in training.

A handsome and striking-looking man in his prime, with a stately walk and a sonorous voice, Sullivan was all his life a prodigious reader. He was hampered from early manhood by indifferent health. His great power and breadth of mind, his joy in work and his capacity for doing almost anything well, drove him in his earlier years to attempt too much and do too many things. Spot was never narrow or petty in any of his actions, but kind, understanding and sincere. His peers and subjects respected him as a good leader. He was very reserved, a gentleman in every sense of the word, and deeply spiritual. Sullivan died on 17 February 1960 at St Vincent's Hospital, Fitzroy, and was buried in Boroondara cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Strong, The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography, 1848-1998 (Syd, 1999)
  • Society of Jesus Archives, Hawthorn, Melbourne.

Citation details

J. Eddy, 'Sullivan, Jeremiah (1877–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/sullivan-jeremiah-11800/text21111, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 23 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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