Pat Sullivan: From One Xavier High to Another

Pat Sullivan, SJ

If ever there was anyone stamped with a “made in New York” sticker, it was Pat Sullivan. Yes, he might have once been a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers and forever afterwards mourned their loss. Even so, he identified as a New Yorker. As I recall, it was a Yankees baseball cap he was wearing when he was sitting at a table, head bowed and listening to classical music as he pondered how to respond to the storm damage at our seminary on Guam.

Pat’s whole early life was boroughs-bound, except for two stints a bit north, in Plattsburg and Peekskill, as part of his studies program. His apostolic world might have been confined to the Big Apple and he would have died a happy man. He taught for years and then did administrative work in secondary education, culminating in an appointment as director of Xavier High School. What greater blessing could he have asked for?

How about becoming director of the other Xavier High School—the one in Chuuk? Maybe it didn’t have the long history of the other Xavier, but it certainly offered challenges of a different sort. It was half a world away from The City, for one thing, and its students were a mix of five or six different cultures, all of them even hopelessly distant from the one Pat grew up in.

Somehow, Pat was assigned to Micronesia in the early 1990s. His job was to run the minor seminary on Guam that had been expanding over the years and now had 18 young men considering vocations to the priesthood. At the first meeting of Pat and his new charges, as the legend has it, Pat explained the house rules to everyone, concluding with a warning to all to take special care of the house car when driving at night. “If any of you damages that car, I’ll break your (bleeping) arm,” Pat said. Years later the former seminarians would still joke about how hard it was to make it to their rooms with a straight face before they burst out in laughter.

Pat Sullivan might have come from a different world, tightly defined even by US standards. But he answered the call to work in islands that most New Yorkers had never heard of. Oddly enough, despite the Brooklyn markings on the man, he had a surprising impact on those he worked with here in Micronesia. Well, maybe not too surprising after all, for local folks have a way of reading a person’s heart, they like to say. Islanders who knew him would be happy to claim Pat as their own.

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About the author

Francis X. Hezel, SJ
Francis X. Hezel, SJ

Francis X. Hezel, SJ, is a Jesuit priest who has lived and worked in Micronesia since 1963. At different times he has served as high school teacher, school administrator, pastor, and regional superior to the Jesuits of Micronesia. He spent thirty years directing the Micronesian Seminar, a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Pohnpei, Micronesia. He has written and spoken widely about social change and its impact on island societies. He has also written several books on Micronesian history, including The First Taint of Civilization, Strangers in Their Own Land, and The New Shape of Old Island Cultures. His most recent book, Making Sense of Micronesia: The Logic of Pacific Island Culture, is available through University of Hawaii Press.