by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism
Dr. Knight: Would you please share with us your early Catholic formation.
Br Brian Sullivan: I grew up Irish Catholic in Long Island, NY, and had several aunts who were religious sisters, and my fathers brother, my Uncle Joe, was an Auxiliary Bishop in Brooklyn. My family all went to Sunday Mass and we all attended Catholic school up until High School graduation.
Dr. Knight: Please tell us the significance of your high school years in formation.
Br Brian Sullivan: There was a big significance, as I attended St. Anthony High School in LI, and I was taught by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, and one of them assigned to me a report due on St. Francis of Assisi, and that started a lifelong devotion.
Dr. Knight: You went to college and joined the seminary. How did you make that decision?
Br Brian Sullivan: I first studied music and traveled and recorded as a jazz drummer for twenty years before deciding to join the Capuchins and enter the seminary. The decision to join the seminary was a result of years of prayer and discernment with my Capuchin formators.
Dr. Knight: You were called by God to be a Capuchin. What is the significance of your call to be a follower of the Capuchin mission and Christ?
Br Brian Sullivan: I think the witness of being a Capuchin today is similar to being a friar in the time of Francis. It is a radically different life choice than what most of the world is making. The significance of being a follower of the Capuchin mission and Christ is to present ourselves to the entire world as it’s little brother. Through a contemplative life, many hours a day before the Blessed Sacrament, we are blessed with the opportunity to be in a deep relationship with Trinitarian Love, and through living in a fraternity, the love we have for one another, and for God, is often poured forth into our ministries and the people we meet, and it is this combination that provokes the question that most Capuchins have heard before, “What is it about you guys that makes you so different?”
Dr. Knight: You spent formation finding out your abilities and gifts through discernment. How was your discernment helpful to you personally?
Br Brian Sullivan: My discernment has been helpful to me personally, that through formation, we are exposed to many different ministries. I can honestly say I loved them all, through prison ministry, hospital chaplaincy, working at a hospice. What I learned is to keep my heart open, and trust that what is being asked of me is God’s will, and through remaining faithful to the Capuchin charism, which is Mental Prayer/Contemplation, fraternity, and ministry, God provides the gifts and graces necessary to carry out what is being asked of you. It is through this formula that I felt a deeper call to sacramental ministry of the priesthood.
Dr. Knight: Do you think/feel that your life is somewhat a mosaic of your different gifts?
Br Brian Sullivan: Yes, I think you could say that. Although the brighter pieces are displayed when you are responding to God’s love.
Dr. Knight: What do you want the readers to understand after reading this interview about being a Capuchin? About living in community?
Br Brian Sullivan: I want people to understand that Capuchins are called to a unique form of Franciscan life. As far as ministries go, we are involved with just about everything, from Heavy Metal singing to Papal preaching. The form of life however, is the same around the world, and every Capuchin friary is your home. Prayer, especially Mental Prayer, is valued above all, and this constant coming and going from the heart of Jesus, is what fuel’s our fraternal life and our ministries. Living in community can be challenging, but our prayer lives mean nothing if we can’t love our brothers with the same love God has for each one of us. Community life is also one of the most beautiful and profound gifts I’ve ever been given.
Dr. Knight: What are some of the challenges of the future Church?
Br Brian Sullivan:: Understanding and correcting causes of division in the Church will be a big challenge. Also, and I don’t have the latest numbers, but with upwards of 70-80% of Catholics not believing in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, this should be, and I believe it is at the top of everyone’s list. If anyone reading this now doubts, I would urge them to find the nearest church with perpetual adoration, sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and wait for the answer.
Dr. Knight: What are some of the joys you’ve experienced as a Capuchin follower of Christ?
Br Brian Sullivan: My deepest joy has been entering into this everlasting relationship with Love itself. Having the opportunity to be with people, and to try and transfer that Love to them has been one wild adventure. Highlights of my journey have been working with inmates at Lompoc Federal prison in California, offering spiritual assistance to patients in the Emergency Room in Wilmington, DE, spending a summer with the beautiful people and wonderful Capuchin brothers in Villa Nueva, Guatemala, and most recently, opening a new friary in Little Havana, Miami.
Dr. Knight: As a Capuchin what are some of the duties that you perform/pray?
Br Brian Sullivan:: At the moment, I am a full-time seminarian in my final year of philosophy, and this is my main duty. Around the house, we all contribute to cooking, cleaning, sacristan duties, yard work, but most importantly, two hours of communal prayer a day in front of the Blessed Sacrament, where we
practice Mental and intercessory prayer, as well as the prayer of the church, the Liturgy of the Hours.
Dr. Knight: Thank you so much for offering us this interview and letting us see all the good works that the Capuchins do for us all.
Br Brian Sullivan: My pleasure, thank you Dr. Knight, God Bless you!