On Wednesday, June 12, 2013, at a Mass of Christian Burial at St.

Ephram’s Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn, Bishop Sullivan’s close friend, Monsignor Nagel, delivered the following Eulogy: At the outset I would like to thank [Msgr. Cane] and the people of St. Ephrem’s for welcoming Bishop Sullivan and his large, wonderful family home here to this parish, which played such an important part in Sullivan’s life. On 81st Street it was here that Thomas and Margaret Sullivan raised their eleven children, and this church played a very important part in their upbringing. The children all attended St. Ephrem’s school and their father, Thomas, served as the Chairman of the Fundraising Committee that raised the monies to build this beautiful church. It was here, of course, that Bishop Joe celebrated his first Mass as a young priest in 1956, and his first Mass as a bishop in 1980. And so it is very fitting that we come here to this holy place, that we come home in order to celebrate the life of this extraordinary bishop and priest, and most especially, to celebrate his birth into eternal life. A few years ago, Msgr. Kain and Ann-Marie Bartone, the principal here at St. Ephrem’s, invited Bishop Sullivan back to his alma mater to give the commencement speech at the eighth grade graduation. And as a memento of that occasion, they presented him with a laminated copy of Bishop Sullivan’s eighth-grade report card. The Bishop made the mistake of showing it to me. And as you might suspect, academically, in all of his academic subjects, he excelled, 96 I think was his lowest mark, but then I happened to noticed at the bottom of the report card, another category—conduct: C+. Now the question I want to raise is how does someone become a bishop in the Catholic Church having gotten a C+ in conduct? You see he was a troublemaker, even back then. After his ordination as a priest, the Bishop spent three years as a parish priest at Our Lady of Lourdes in Queens Village. Although he was very happy there, he received the phone call from Bishop McEntegart that he was going to be assigned to graduate work at Fordham University School of Social Work. In the obituary in the Times, the Bishop is quoted as saying that it was “the best thing that ever happened to him.” However, that’s not how he felt at the time. He often told me about the conversation—well it was hardly a conversation—that he had with Bishop McEntegart. And after Bishop McEntegart told him what he was going to do, Father Sullivan said to him, “But Bishop, you don’t understand. I’m very happy as a parish priest doing parish work in Queens Village.” And Bishop McEntegart’s classic response was, “That’s exactly the reason that I’m sending you to graduate school.” So already at a young age, the Bishop got an insight into the mysterious logic that is sometimes involved in priestly assignments. But of course he went to Fordham and got his degree and the rest is history. Over fifty years of passionate, creative ministry and Catholic Charities, and Catholic health care, over fifty years. We will not dwell today on all of the boards he served on, although he loved doing that. He found it very stimulating to be with committed, bright people; he was always learning things that he didn’t know. We will not dwell on that or all the rewards, awards that he was given, all the committees that he served on in the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. We all know he was a giant in his field, in his vision, his leadership, and his accomplishments. I would just like

to mention three that began locally here— of which he was particularly proud—because he spoke so often of them. First of all, was the amount of affordable housing that was built here in the Diocese of Brooklyn, sponsored by Catholic Charities, housing for the poor and the disadvantaged. Secondly, the early childhood centers, begun by his very good friends Sister Lorna and Sister Kathleen. These centers gave young, unmarried, poor mothers an opportunity to get an education for themselves and to go on and get meaningful employment, while their children were getting a head start on their own education in a very safe, and nurturing learning environment; imagine the number of lives that were influenced and made better because of that program. Finally, I would like to mention the very successful Fidelis Care program. It is the Bishops of the State of New York’s insurance program, headed by our own Brooklyn priest, Father Pat Frawley. The Bishop was very proud of the success of that particular service program. But perhaps more important than his professional accomplishments, was who he was, as a person, and as a priest, that made such a difference in the lives of so many people. As someone said he possessed a great humanity; there was a great humanity about him. Also he was sympathetic to the human condition, and he understood and accepted the human frailties and weaknesses of people; their failings and failures, their human sinfulness and weakness. Because of those qualities he was found very approachable and very real—real to people. I don’t know if this phrase will ring a bell to any of you, but he used it often to me when talking about someone whom he was very impressed with, or someone that he enjoyed relating to, he would use the expression, “the person is down to earth real, down to earth real,” and of course, there was no one more down to earth real, than Bishop Joe Sullivan. I remember one time going with him to a reception in New York City and I believe it was the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation. And at the reception I was talking to an elderly man who was a member of the Jewish faith and the Bishop had worked very closely with him on several projects in the city and we were conversing and he said something to me that took me aback and what he said was, “Bishop Sullivan must make you feel very proud to be a Catholic.” He made us very proud to be a Catholic. Why? Because he gave credibility; he gave us tremendous credibility to the Catholic Church in the public square, in the board rooms of New York City, in the congressional hearing rooms in Albany and Washington, and in public speaking platforms across this country. His voice was not a strident voice but an intelligent, articulate, respectful and compassionate voice always speaking on the behalf of the disenfranchised, those on the periphery of life, the poor, the vulnerable, the needy; always speaking for them, for them. In the Gospel reading we read, “When did we see you naked and clothe you? When did we see you hungry and feed you? When did we see you homeless and give you shelter? When did we see you in prison and visit you? And the king will reply, as often as you did it to one of these the least of my brothers and sisters you did it to me, you did it to me.” That’s what Bishop Sullivan’s whole ministry in charities and health care was all about.

On one occasion, in his life, I believe it was the 50th Anniversary of his ordination, he received a letter from his friend, the former Governor of New York Mario Cuomo, and it captures I think some of what I am trying to say about Bishop Sullivan: Dear Bishop Sullivan, Since the days when you were just plain ‘Joe’, you’ve been good at a lot of the things that matter. You’re a wonderful singer, a good baseball player --I would contest that myself-- and a great friend. You’ve proved to be a great priest, a great bishop, and frankly, if you were Italian, you would have made a great Pope. With all of your gifts, and skills, and energy, you offer dozens of standards we would all do well to aspire to, but one stands above the rest, because it is sweet and particularly rare. There may never have been a time when the world was more in need of the Church’s model of restraint, respect, and responsibility, and you have taught and lived those standards admirably, but through your public work and in your private life, you have also expressed a deeper truth; that the greatest beauty of our faith springs from its positive applications in compassion, in charity, in giving ourselves up entirely to a good greater than we can comprehend. Certainly your career is a testament to the eloquence of Christ’s model of love. In 1980, when the Bishop was nominated as a bishop, one of the responsibilities of a candidate for the episcopacy is he has to draw up a copy of his coat of arms with his Episcopal motto. And I don’t know if you’ve taken the time to look at the Bishop’s coat of arms but right in the center of it—and he deliberately chose this of course—is a replica of a bridge. And it’s not just any bridge; it’s the Brooklyn Bridge, because we all know that Bishop Sullivan loved Brooklyn. He never wanted to be anywhere else but here. He chose this symbol of a bridge, as he wrote in The Tablet back then, that he saw the responsibility of a bishop or any religious leader as being a bridge. A bridge between the City of God and the City of Man, a connector of people, a conduit of dialogue among people, always bringing people together to solve problems that affect them all. When you think of it so much of his work revolved about being a bridge-maker, a bridgebuilder. I know on the national level he tried to bring about greater cooperation between Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Health Association. In our own metropolitan area, in the local area, he tried to bring resources together and connect and bridge the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn, in order to provide better social services for all the people, all the people in New York City. And finally over the last several years, and this was something very important to him, he reached out to the gay and lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning community and gathered groups of people together. They met at St. Francis College where they came together for purposes of education, of sharing with one another, of trying to be sources of encouragement to one another and searching for ways in which the Church could better pastorally care for that community, and that work must continue. When I think of this image of a bridge, shortly after Bishop DiMarzio came to the diocese, I attended a meeting out in Douglaston for all of the permanent deacons of the diocese and their pastors. Msgr. Frank Caggiano was in charge of the diaconate program, and he was outlining changes that were going to take place in the formation of the deacons. And at the end of the

meeting Bishop DiMarzio got up to address the deacons, and he made the point that very often on the parish level, the deacon is the— bridge is the word he used—the bridge between the laity and the clergy, the deacon is the bridge. But then Bishop DiMarzio gave a little bit of a warning, he said, “but always remember, bridges are walked over and they’re walked on, so be prepared.” And Bishop Sullivan was always prepared for that, and never afraid of it. As I look out over this magnificently vast congregation and I know there are different faith traditions represented here, but certainly we are all united today by a common admiration, respect, and love for our beloved Bishop Sullivan. Very often, when we are grieving, when we are mourning, when we are sorrowful because we have lost someone special to us, it’s very difficult to be thankful. But this liturgy calls us to be thankful; every liturgy calls us to be thankful because that’s what the word Eucharist means, to give thanks, and even in the midst of our sorrow today, we are called to be thankful. And I’ll just mention two simple things that I think we should be thankful for today. How fortunate, how blessed, how gifted we all have been to have had Joe Sullivan a part of our lives. And secondly, how fortunate, and blessed, and gifted he was to have had the long, and satisfying, and happy life and ministry that he did. Those of you who read the obituary in the New York Times, he was quoted as saying that he considers his work a foretaste of heaven on earth, heaven moving towards heaven, and that was because he found the work so satisfying and fulfilling. Why? Because he was helping people, he was making a difference in the lives of people, he was bettering their lives. There’s a little prayer —and of course he worked right up until the very end, and that is what he wanted for himself, to work right up until the very end, and God granted him that—there is a little prayer by St. Thomas More, and it goes like this, and we should make this prayer our own today, “We thank you Lord for all that you have given us, we thank you Lord for all that you have taken from us, we thank you Lord for all that you have left us.” We all know that the Bishop loved poetry, he wrote poetry himself, and he also would use poetry as a meditation for his daily meditation in the morning. There was a particular poem that he liked and which he recited often at the funerals of family members and friends. It’s a poem by Sister Jessica Powers and it’s called “Homecoming” and it goes like this: The spirit, newly freed from earth, is all amazed at the surprise of his belonging: suddenly as native to eternity to see himself, to realize the heritage that lets him be at home where all this glory lies. By naught foretold could he have guessed such welcome home: the robe, the ring, music and endless banqueting, these people his; this place of rest known, as of long remembering himself a child of God and pressed with warm endearments to Christ’ breast. The robe, the ring, music and endless banqueting and pressed with warm endearments to Christ’s breast. Goodnight sweet prince, and may legions of angles carry thee to thy eternal rest. Amen. Amen. [Applause]

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