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Deacon Sullivan's Account of the Miracle

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Deacon Sullivan spoke with great vividness of an instantaneous healing which allowed him to be ordained to the diaconate.


The Cause for the Canonization of John Henry Cardinal Newman (
11/11/2009 (1 decade ago)

Published in Europe

LONDON (Cause for the Canonization) - At a London Press Conference, Deacon Jack Sullivan has spoken in England for the first time about his healing from a serious spinal condition through the intercession of John Henry Newman.
At the beginning of a week-long visit to the UK, which will centre on a visit to Newman's Birmingham Oratory, Deacon Sullivan spoke with great vividness of an instantaneous healing which allowed him to be ordained to the diaconate.

The Healing

"In the midsummer of the year 2000 I was told by a surgeon at a Boston Hospital, after he had analysed scans of my spine, that I needed immediate surgery and that paralysis could be imminent. The surgeon said mine was the worst case he'd seen in 17 years. I was so despondent, because I had worked hard in my diaconate classes, and now it seemed that I would be unable to return to them. At that moment things were very bleak. Watching EWTN [an American Catholic television network] that same day, I saw two priests discussing Cardinal Newman.

"I knew something about Newman - not much, but I knew that he was a convert, a brilliant man, who preached and wrote about the influence of God in everyday life, in a very common sense, rational way. At the end of the programme a message appeared on the screen 'If you receive a favour from Cardinal Newman's intercession, please write to the Postulator of his Cause for Canonisation at the Oratory, Hagley Road, Birmingham.' I wrote the address down, thinking there was maybe a reason why I was watching this programme. I thought: if I pray to Cardinal Newman, he might help me. So I prayed to him. The following morning, when I got up, I had no pain whatsoever. I was ecstatic."
Deacon Sullivan remained completely free from pain for the best part of a year. But then there was a deterioration in his condition and he was admitted to hospital in August 2001.

He went on: "During the course of the surgery there were problems - the dura mater, surrounding the spinal cord, was all gone, so there was no protective fluid around my spine. After surgery I was put on both morphine and Demerol. Things didn't look good. I was fixated on getting over this surgery. But what about my classes? They were due to begin on September 6. I was told the recovery period would be 8 to 12 months. This is how long it would be before I could walk. If I wasn't able to do the final year of classes, all would be lost.

On August 15, I was told that I couldn't go back to classes - that it wasn't humanly possible. I thought: I have to get out of this bed. I was in agony. The nurse got me to the side of my bed, and I was leaning on it with my forearms. At that moment I prayed to Cardinal Newman a second time: 'Please Cardinal Newman, help me to walk so that I can return to classes and be ordained.' I've never forgotten any detail of that beautiful day. Suddenly I felt heat all over, very warm and very intense, which lasted for a long time. I also felt a sense of joy and peace that I had never in my life experienced before: a sense of God's presence, together with having no real power of my own. And then I had a sudden confidence that finally I could walk. It was now or never - and the next thing was that I shouted to the nurse: 'I have no more pain!'.

The pain had completely left me. I felt utter joy, strength and a conviction that something very special had happened to me, something which had come from a very special person. Immediately I walked out of the room, up and down the corridors, the nurses following me telling me to slow down - I was enjoying it! I looked out of the windows at the end of the corridor: from floor to ceiling all I could see were the backs of the run-down Marshfield tenements. But to me they were like castles made of gold. Immediately afterwards I was discharged, and returned to my diaconate classes, to the astonishment of my classmates and most of all to my wife Carol."

Flanked by the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, Jack Sullivan responded to probing questions from assembled journalists.

A Miracle for the Church and the World

Jack was asked about the meaning of his miracle not just for him but for others. He replied: "That is exactly the point. It was not for me alone, but for everyone. It is to show that God is real, Newman is real: he is alive, there is life after death, there is more to life than what we can see and touch and feel. The greatest reality is the spirit, that's the most meaningful reality. We can experience heaven on earth."

Austen Ivereigh, for the Jesuit magazine America, asked if Jack ever felt guilty that it was he and not someone else who had been healed. "Why would I feel guilt at something so joyful?" Jack replied. "Of course, I ask myself 'Why me?' All I can think of in reply is that my life is ordinary, and that perhaps Cardinal Newman and God are trying to show us that there is hope for everybody. In fact, I think one has to be ordinary for this kind of thing to happen to you."

The Archbishop explained the Vatican procedures for examining and accepting a miracle, which involve a painstaking analysis by panels of doctors and theologians, which if the miracle is accepted culminate in a Papal Decree. In the case of Newman's miraculous healing of Jack Sullivan the Pope issued his Decree on 3 July this year.
Asked by Simon Caldwell, a UK-based Catholic journalist, if Jack had any reflections on why God might have healed him when he did, and had chosen now as the time for Newman to be Beatified, Jack said:

"There couldn't be a better time, because the world is in such a state. People today want to be decide for themselves what is right and wrong. They want to be self-sufficient, rather than attribute to God what is his. This kind of self-sufficiency can lead to great evil. So the Beatification is a way of reminding people that God is God, our Creator, and that he wants to draw us to himself. Why wouldn't he want to draw us to himself? His Son sacrificed himself for our sakes. Newman's great theme was trying to make people aware of God."


The Cause for the Canonisation of Cardinal Newman is affiliated to the Oratory, Birmingham which is a registered charity number 239857. 2009. This article is published with permission.

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