Jeff Sullivan, SJ
Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
- Served as a youth minister at St. Procopius Parish in Chicago.
- Was a teacher and campus minister at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois.
- Ministered as a prison chaplain at the Women’s Federal Correctional Institute in Dublin, California.
Will serve in campus ministry at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.
Born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, Jeff Sullivan, SJ, is the second son of David and Karen Sullivan. While Jeff professed his vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as a Jesuit, it was his parents who were his first teachers of a life of faith and compassion. Jeff notes that while he was born a cradle Catholic, it was the Jesuits of Creighton University who raised him to have a vision of a faith that does justice. His experiences with Jesuit Volunteers Corps in Milwaukee as a paralegal at Civil Legal Services firm, teaching at the Working Boys Center in Quito, Ecuador, and his time at the Red Cloud Indian School continued his education in Jesuit values. Since joining the Jesuits, he has been a youth minister at St. Procopius Parish in Chicago, a teacher and campus minister at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois, and a prison chaplain at the Women’s Federal Correctional Institute (FCI-Dublin) in California.
While Jeff has enjoyed his life as a Jesuit, he attributes his joy in this life to so many people: the friends that he has acquired throughout his journey in the Society of Jesus and the love of his two nieces (Gabriella and Joanna) and two nephews (Jonathan and Timothy), his two godsons (Xavier and Owen), his brother, his sister-in-law, and his parents. Jeff has also been formed by his uncle and aunt, Deacon Peter Ryza (of the Diocese of Stockton) and Linda Ryza, in learning how to be a minister of the faith.
Jeff’s formal formation has been long years of forming the mind; and yet, these past 11 years have all been about Jesus, Mary, and the Holy Spirit forming his heart. Jeff is excited to return to his alma mater, Creighton University, to serve as a campus minister. He is grateful to God, the benefactors, and his family that have made this vocation possible.
Bachelor’s degree, English, Creighton University; Master’s degree, philosophy, Loyola University Chicago; Master of Divinity, Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
What is your favorite book, movie, music, or TV show you’ve encountered since entering the Society?
Favorite Book: “The Catcher in the Rye” (I’ve taught it eight times.)
Movie: “Field of Dreams”
What are three words a family member or fellow Jesuit would use to describe you? (Ask someone.) Do you agree with his or her selections?
Earnest, zealous for growth, great dancer, tenderhearted, attentive.
Who’s your favorite saint, and why?
St. Alberto Hurtado, SJ. He ministered to orphans and the poor. He was a model of faith for me when I was working with the “shoeshine boys” in Quito, Ecuador.
What is one hobby you’ve cultivated as a Jesuit, and why is it important to you?
I have tried my hand at drawing since joining the Jesuits. It has been a great way of expressing spiritual experiences in prayer.
What do you love about the Society of Jesus?
I love the companions that have walked alongside me. The food is pretty good, too.
What was one particularly meaningful experience you had during your formation, and why was it meaningful to you?
I have had the opportunity to form and be formed by the youth of this world. From teaching high school English on the North Shore of Chicago to walking alongside my youth group at St. Procopius in Chicago to spending a summer at Homeboy Industries, I have had the pleasure of meeting so many youth who are hopeful and zealous for a better future.
Tell your vocation story. One catch: You must use only six words.
Resisted call. Brokenhearted. Rebuilt by Jesus.
What’s one thing about life in the Society of Jesus other people might not realize?
I think that many men join the Society of Jesus because we are romantics at heart. We want to travel and do great big things for the world. And then God gets ahold of us and lets us know that world needs much more from us than we can ever give.
How has your spirituality changed since entering the Society?
The earliest years of my Jesuit formation were about competing with the ghosts of others — St. Ignatius of Loyola, my Jesuit brothers and my own expectations of others. I used my spirituality to try and replicate the virtues of others. Through the brokenness of trial and error and being involved in the lives of others, I realized that I had to stop trying to mold myself into the likeness of others. I had to let Mary hold me when I was fragile. I had to let Jesus make me human, and I had to let the Holy Spirit forge me with the fire of love. God wouldn’t let me be recreated in the mold of other people. God had to recreate me through the love of so many friends and companions that I have met along the way.
Imagine you could travel back in time and meet yourself the first day you entered the Society of Jesus. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to yourself?
Don’t take yourself so seriously.
What brings you joy?
The laughter of young people! Especially, my nieces, my nephews and my godsons.