* Birth in Castletownbeare, Ireland (愛爾蘭): [2 August 1904]
Father Edmund Sullivan, S.J.
It is easy to outline the career of the late Father Edmund
Sullivan, SJ. It is almost impossible to give an adequate picture of that dearly
loved, ever busy, ever original priest, who died on 19 April 1980 at Kuala
Lumpur, aged 75.
Almost twenty years have passed since he left Hong Kong, yet even in this city of short memories he is still held in affectionate regard. The parishioners of St. Francis Xavier’s Church, Petaling Jaya, where he spent his later years, must feel that they have lost a dear friend and an irreplaceable light on the way of life.
Father Sullivan was born at Castletownbeare, Ireland, on 2 July 1904. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1922 and was ordained priest on 31 July 1935. After study of Cantonese, he joined the staff of Wah Yan College, Hong Kong. He spent the war years, partly with the Maryknoll Fathers in China, partly in Calcutta, where in addition to doing parish work, he started a much valued centre for the wartime swarm of army chaplains, giving hospitality also to many servicemen of all ranks.
After the war he worked for a time in Canton. When that became impossible he returned to Hong Kong where he taught in Wah Yan College, Kowloon, and worked as a ready helper in the college chapel and in St. Teresa’s Church. It was this church work that made him known to the Catholics of Hong Kong.
In 1961 Father Sullivan moved to Malaysia to become assistant priest at St. Francis Xavier's Church, Petaling Jaya, an industrial suburb of Kuala Lumpur, and remained attached to that church till his death. When the time came at which he, as a foreigner, was told that under Malaysian law he would have to leave the country, the parishioners raised such a clamour of dismay that the government granted him a personal exemption from the law, allowing him to remain though without a specific post.
A fairly typical priestly life! But there was nothing typical about the man himself. Even in the minor details of daily life he was always original. He was a man of the highest courtesy, but this was never conventional courtesy; it always seemed to be a personal tribute evoked by the person he was dealing with. His advice, in the confessional and outside, was treasured, and it was never merely conventional advice; it was always an original judgment on the immediate facts. In his time there he was probably the most carelessly dressed priest in Hong Kong, but he could not shake off the air of being a great gentleman. Throughout his student days, his mind went blank at every examination; he had that much excuse for regarding himself as academically null, but he was a well-read and illuminating commentator on a wide variety of subjects. He was fundamentally serious, but he was always great fun; even those who are lamenting his death smile through their grief as memory after memory comes to mind.
He leaves a record of unstinted kindness, unfailing charm and complete devotion.
2 May 1980
Father Edmund Sullivan S.J.
A Requiem Mass for the repose of the soul of the Rev. Father Edmund Sullivan, S.J., who died in Kuala Lumpur on 19 April 1980 will be offered in Wah Yan College, Waterloo Road, Kowloon, at 6:30pm on Monday, 19 May 1980. All are welcome.
9 May 1980
Mourning for Father Sullivan
Father Edmund Sullivan, S.J., died three days after falling off a retaining wall outside the Jesuit residence here.
For two days and nights, a continuous line of people - young and old, from all walks of life and religious belief - streamed past his body in the St. Francis Xavier Church basement. Mothers with babies in their arms could be seen touching his hands and then, as if to transfer the blessings to their offspring, caressing and patting their babies’ faces. Muslims mingled with Catholics and other Christians to pay their last respects.
The crowd at the funeral Mass was larger than that on Easter Sunday. Archbishop Dominic Vendargon, tears streaming down his face, was the main celebrant. Forth priests concelebrated. Near the end of the Mass, two parishioners read their tribute to Father Sullivan:
“Our very dear Father Sullivan,” “More than anything else, we must say how much we are going to miss you: your ready smile, your cheery word, your inimitable Irish wit, you approachability and availability, your sensitivity and understanding. The days your spent trudging along the streets of Sungei Way and Petaling Jaya radiating simplicity and joy all spoke so eloquently of your genuine saintliness. The innumerable times you brought the healing touch of Christ to those of us discouraged by the weight of sin, always shining through came His spirit of encouragement and loving forgiveness.” The tribute continued in the same Vein.
A close friend says: “Father Sullivan taught me something very precious. He taught me the importance of laughter. He used to laugh at himself a lot. He always saw the funny side of things, and when he fell off the retaining wall outside his home, instead of shouting for help, a Sister found him laughing at the foot of the retaining wall.”
The Jesuits at Xavier Hall have had to lock up Father Sullivan’s room to prevent “looting” by relic hunters. Many stories are circulating about Father Sullivan’s great love for people, especially the poor. “I caught him many times transferring his portion of food off his plate into a plastic bag whenever he thought on one was looking, hiding it in his large pocket to be given to his poor friends in the village,” Marie, the cook says.
His friends ranged from the very rich to the very poor. Often when he was waiting at bus stops, people in Rolls Royces and Mercedes Benzes would stop to offer him rides. Reluctant to put anyone out, he would go wherever the car was heading and conveniently forget to mention his own destination.
Notable among his mail were scruffy slips of paper from his
friends in Pudu prison requesting soap and rubber slippers.
23 May 1980
本 會 會 士 蘇 惠 民 神 父 ， 經 於 主 曆 一 九 八 ０ 年 四 月 十 九 日 在 吉 隆 坡 蒙 主 寵 召 。 現 訂 於 五
月 十 九 日 (星 期 一) 下 午 六 時 三 十 分 假 九 龍 華 仁 書 院 小 堂 舉 行 安 所 彌 撒 。
歡 迎 主 內 兄 弟 姊 妹 與 祭 ， 同 為 亡 者 祈 禱 。
1980 年 5 月 16 日
◆ 先賢錄－－香港天主教神職及男女修會會士 (1841-2010), 天主教香港教區檔案處, 2010.
◆ 先賢錄－－香港天主教神職及男女修會會士 (1841-2016), 天主教香港教區檔案處, 2016.
◆ 一九二六年至二零一六年在香港的耶穌會會士影像回憶, 紀歷有限公司, 2016.