Deacon Jack Sullivan to Proclaim Gospel at Mass for Cardinal Newman Beatification

Deacon Jack Sullivan, from the Archdiocese of Boston Massachusetts, was miraculously cured from a serious spinal disorder through the intercession of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman on the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, 15 August 2001. This cure was accepted by the Church as the miracle necessary for the Beatification of Cardinal Newman.

Nine years later Deacon Sullivan is to proclaim the Gospel at the Mass when Pope Benedict XVI will personally beatify Cardinal Newman, at Cofton Park Birmingham, on Sunday 19 September.

Deacon Jack Sullivan, now aged 71, and his wife Carol, will be the guests of Archbishop Bernard Longley and the Archdiocese of Birmingham during their six-day visit to England for the occasion.

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Deacon Jack Sullivan and his wife Carol pictured during their visit to London in November 2009

The Archbishop of Birmingham made the announcement during a 45-minute press conference about the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Archdiocese of Birmingham, held at Cathedral House Birmingham on Friday 23 July.

The healing of Deacon Sullivan, was subjected to rigorous tests by a panel of doctors and then by theologians set-up by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome. The Cardinals and Bishops of the Congregation voted unanimously in favour of the cure on 2 June 2009. Pope Benedict XVI approved the Decree announcing the miracle on 3 July that year.

Archbishop Bernard Longley said: “I met Deacon Jack Sullivan recently in New York. I am delighted that he and his wife Carol have accepted an invitation to be my personal guests and those of the Archdiocese of Birmingham at the time of the beatification of Cardinal Newman.”

The beatification will be the first to be carried out by Pope Benedict XVI since he was elected Pope in April 2005, a mark of his lifelong interest in and study of Cardinal Newman, the best-known English churchman of the 19th century. The venue chosen by the Holy See for the Papal Mass is situated close to the Oratory Retreat House at Rednal where Cardinal Newman was buried following his death, aged 89, on 11 August 1890.

During the press conference, held particularly for local media throughout the Archdiocese of Birmingham, Fr Jan Nowotnik, Parish Priest, Our Lady and St Brigid, Northfield, Deputy, Local Coordinator, Liturgy, said that Cardinal Keith O’Brien and Archbishop Vincent Nichols, and the bishops from England and Wales, and Scotland would be joined by cardinals and more than 100 bishops from throughout the world at the Mass of Beatification at the end of the Pope’s historic four-day State Visit to Britain.”

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Archbishop Bernard Longley pictured with Fr Jan Nowotnik, Peter Jennings and Canon Patrick Browne in the garden at Cathedral House, Birmingham, after the press conference about the Papal Visit to the Archdiocese of Birmingham held on Friday 23 July.

Fr Nowotnik said: “Over 1,000 priests, some of whom would help with the distribution of Holy Communion, are expected to concelebrate at the Mass. There will be four deacons of the Mass including two newly ordained deacons who are training to be priests. One of the four deacons is Deacon Jack Sullivan who will proclaim the Gospel.”

Fr Nowotnik added: “Deacon Sullivan and his wife Carol along with other representatives will form part of a procession that will immediately follow the Rite of Beatification when the new Blessed John Henry Newman is proclaimed.”

Fr Nowotnik revealed: “The Prayers of the Faithful will be read in the following languages which represent some of the languages of the people of the diocese. They are Welsh, French, German, Punjabi, Irish, Vietnamese.” He said: “Latin will be used in the Mass to represent the Universal Nature of the Church.”

He said: “People from the Archdiocese of Birmingham and nationally have been chosen to read, carry the offertory gifts and be altar servers. He added: “30 people will be chosen from within the three Oratory parishes in England (Birmingham, London and Oxford) to receive Holy Communion from the Holy Father.”

In addition Fr Nowotnik revealed that the choir will be made up of more than 2000 people mainly representing the parishes of the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

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Archbishop Bernard Longley gave a series of one-to-one television, radio and newspaper interviews following the press conference in Birmingham on 23 July.

Canon Patrick Browne, Administrator, St Chad’s Cathedral, Local Coordinator of the Papal Visit to the Archdioceses of Birmingham told the press conference that after Mass Pope Benedict is expected to make a short private pilgrimage to the Oratory House in Edgbaston, opened by Cardinal Newman in 1852, where he spent most of his life as a Catholic and where he died on 11 August 1890.

Pope Benedict XVI will then make a private visit to St Mary’s College, Oscott, the diocesan seminary situated on the outskirts of Birmingham where he will address the Catholic bishops of England, Scotland and Wales in the chapel. It was here on 13 July 1852 that Dr Newman gave his famous The Second Spring sermon at the First Synod of the New Province of Westminster held at Oscott College.

About 70,000 people are expected to be in Cofton Park for the Papal Mass, scheduled to start at 10.00am and last for about two hours.

In answer to questions Canon Browne explained that 65,000 pilgrim invitations are being distributed by the dioceses of England and Wales working with the local deaneries and parish priests and also the Birmingham Oratory.

Canon Browne said: “The pilgrims, who will be representatives from their parishes, will make a contribution of £25 each towards the special official Pilgrim Pack that will contain a special prayer book with the Papal Mass and also a coach ticket to the venue.” He emphasised: “Only Pilgrims who receive an official pilgrim invitation will be admitted to Cofton Park for the Papal Mass.”

After the Funeral Mass of Cardinal Newman at the Oratory church in August 1890 more than 15,000 ordinary people spontaneously lined the route of more than eight miles to the community graveyard at Rednal where this holy parish priest was buried.

About the author

Peter Jennings is a well known Catholic journalist, writer, broadcaster and PR consultant. Based in Birmingham UK.

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