Deacon healed through Newman intercession to speak in Champaign

CHAMPAIGN — As part of its celebration for the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, St. John’s Catholic Newman Center on the campus of the University of Illinois will welcome Deacon John Sullivan on Monday, Feb. 7.

His talk at 7 p.m. in the Swetland Assembly Rooms at St. John’s will include time for questions and answers. A reception will follow.
Msgr. Gregory Ketcham, chaplain and director of St. John’s Catholic Newman Center, the largest in the United States, said he has invited students from the other Newman ministries in the Diocese of Peoria to come for the Feb. 7 presentation.

It was Deacon Sullivan’s healing through the intercession of Cardinal Newman that cleared the way for the British prelate’s beatification by Pope Benedict XVI last September.

Deacon Sullivan, who is from Marshfield, Mass., in the Archdiocese of Boston, began to experience the debilitating back pain in 2000. Not only did that mean surgery and possible paralysis, but his studies for the permanent diaconate would have to be put on hold.

After asking Cardinal Newman twice to intercede for him so that he could continue on to ordination, he was healed in August 2001. It was the miracle needed for Blessed Newman’s cause to advance.

Deacon Sullivan and his wife, Carol, carried a relic of Blessed Newman to Pope Benedict at the Sept. 19 beatification Mass in Birmingham, England. He also served as one of the permanent deacons at that Mass.

“I have dedicated my vocation in praise of Cardinal Newman, who even now directs all my efforts,” Deacon Sullivan said in a statement after the decree recognizing his miraculous healing was signed at the Vatican on July 3, 2009.

Blessed Newman was a 19th century theologian and prolific writer on spiritual topics, especially the relationship between faith and reason. Raised in the Anglican tradition, he was received into the Catholic Church in 1845.

“When we were made aware of Cardinal Newman’s beatification, we put a little plan together,” Msgr. Ketcham told The Catholic Post. “We actually have one of the few statues of Cardinal Newman and we moved that into the sanctuary of the chapel. We also watched the beatification live.”

In addition to using hymns composed by Cardinal Newman at Masses the weekend of Sept. 18-19, and offering a noncredit course on his life and teachings last semester, St. John’s Catholic Newman Center invited a Newman expert from Michigan to speak to the students last fall.

The presentation by Deacon Sullivan is the last event in the celebration for this academic year, according to Msgr. Ketcham. The talk will cover his “spiritual relationship” with Cardinal Newman, as well as his role in the Vatican investigation that led to the beatification.

As they look forward, the beatification of Pope John Paul II on May 1 is causing excitement among the students and staff at St. John’s. Msgr. Ketcham said they are working on another “little plan” to mark the occasion.

For more information on Deacon Sullivan’s visit, call St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at (217) 344-1184.

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