Retired Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn Joseph Sullivan Dies

A good man and a great priest. Details:

Retired Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn, the Most Reverend Joseph M. Sullivan, died June 7, 2013, after a May 30th car accident on the Long Island Expressway in Syosset, New York. Bishop Sullivan was critically injured in the three-car collision and was immediately airlifted to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, New York. He died from injuries sustained from the impact.

“We mourn the passing of Bishop Joseph Sullivan,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. “During his tenure, Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens became a nationally recognized provider of social services. Even in retirement, Bishop Joe continued to serve on many boards for Catholic hospitals and health institutions. He epitomized the best of our Church’s teaching and the fundamental option for the poor. He was an outstanding priest.”

Bishop Sullivan was born on March 23, 1930, one of 11 children of the late Thomas and Margaret Sullivan. Bishop Sullivan attended St. Ephrem’s elementary school and St. Michael’s Diocesan High School, both in Brooklyn, and Manhattan College.

In 1950, he began studies for the priesthood at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, L.I., and was ordained June 2, 1956, by Archbishop Thomas E. Molloy in St. James Cathedral in Brooklyn.

After a three-year period as a newly-ordained priest at Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Queens Village, he was assigned to study social work, and in l961 he earned a master’s degree from the Fordham University School of Social Work. In that same year, he was appointed assistant director of Catholic Charities’ childcare division and four years later was named the director. Bishop Sullivan also earned a master’s in public administration from New York University.

In 1968, when Bishop Francis J. Mugavero became the Diocesan Bishop, he chose then–Father Sullivan to succeed him as the executive director of Catholic Charities and appointed him Secretary to the Ordinary for Charities. He was elected executive vice-president of the board of trustees of Catholic Charities in l979.

In the following year, on Oct. 7, 1980, he was one of three Brooklyn priests named Auxiliary Bishops by then Pope John Paul II. The others were late Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua and Bishop Rene A. Valero. Bishop–elect Sullivan was also given the title of Titular Bishop of Suliana.

As an auxiliary bishop, Bishop Sullivan held the titles of Vicar for Human Services and Regional Bishop for the 62 parishes of the Brooklyn West Vicariate.

Other pastoral work in which Bishop Sullivan helped serve were health care issues and needs, where he played an instrumental role in the formation of St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Centers, which joined the hospitals and related facilities of the Diocese with similar institutions conducted by the New York Sisters of Charity. Bishop Sullivan has served on numerous Church and civic boards concerned with health and human services on the national, State and local levels. These have included the chairmanship of the Catholic Medical Center of Brooklyn and Queens and membership on the board of Catholic Charities USA.

Also included in his activities outside the Diocese has been his service as chairman of the Social Development and World Peace Department of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In the late 1990s, he chaired an ad hoc committee that produced a pastoral letter on charity — “In All Things Charity: A Pastoral Challenge for the New Millennium” — approved by the U.S. bishops in November 1999. He said the message was intended “to reclaim the meaning of charity,” which he said had become a pejorative term in modern society.

Bishop Sullivan is survived by his sisters Betty, Dolly and Fran, and brothers John, Pete and Ralph; he has over 100 nieces, nephews, and grandnieces and grandnephews. He was predeceased by his brothers Gerard, Richard, Thomas and William.

Funeral arrangements are pending and will be released as they become available.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…


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