Assignment Record – Bishop James Stephen Sullivan

Summary of Case: A priest of the Lansing diocese ordained in 1955, Sullivan was elevated to Auxiliary Bishop in 1972, then to Bishop of Fargo in 1985. Sullivan was accused in 2002 of fondling a high school-aged boy in 1966, after the boy disclosed to him that a religious brother had sexually abused him. Sullivan denied the accusations, and diocesan officials stated they did not believe the accuser because he had not come forward sooner. Sullivan retired in March 2002 due to symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. He died in June 2006.

: 1955
Incardinated: Lansing, MI
Ordained bishop: Sept. 21, 1972
Installed bishop of Fargo: May 30, 1985
Retired: March 18, 2002
Died: June 12, 2006


Start Stop Parish/Assignment Town/Accusations State Position Notes


Lansing bishop was Joseph Henry Albers (1937-1965).

1958 St. Luke's Flint MI 2/2 St. Luke's had a school with 571-712 students.
1958 1960 St. Mary's Cathedral Lansing MI 5/7, 6/8 St. Mary's had a grade school with 404-340 students, and a high school with 443-357 students.
1960 1961 Secretary to the Bishop Lansing MI   Sullivan's address is that of the bishop's residence in the 1961 Directory.
1961 1965 St. Joseph's St. Joseph MI 3/3, 2/3 St. Joseph's had a grade school with 519-543 students, and a high school with 182-247 students.


Albers was succeeded by Alexander Mieceslaus Zaleski (1965-1975)

1977 Resurrection


Sullivan was accused in 2002 of fondling a high school aged boy in 1966. His accuser said he went to Sullivan to report that a religious brother molested him. He said Sullivan told him to keep quiet, and molested him a week later. The accuser also said that Sullivan told him he had two options, "Either join the club, or shut-up." Sullivan denied the accusations. The incident is said to have happened at St. Thomas Aquinas in East Lansing, where Sullivan served as a fill-in priest from time to time.


2/3, 2/4, 3/3, 3/4

In res. 1972-1977

Resurrection had a school with 705-239 students.

Sullivan was appointed Auxiliary Bishop July 25, 1972, and ordained bishop Sept. 21, 1972.

1966 1972 Assistant Chancellor Lansing MI    
1966 1985 Liturgical Commission Lansing MI Director  
1969 1974 Property Planning Commission Lansing MI    
    Vocations Lansing MI Director  
    Liturgical Publications Lansing MI Founder  


Kenneth Joseph Povish replaced Zaleski (1975-1995)

1985 Vicars General Lansing MI    
1977 1985 St. Thomas Aquinas East Lansing MI 1/4, 1/3

St. Thomas' had a school with 376-468 students.

Sullivan was appointed Bishop of Fargo April 2, 1985, and installed May 30, 1985.


James Stephen Sullivan was Fargo bishop (1985-2002)

May 2002 Bishop Fargo ND  

Sullivan retired in May 2002, and was said at the time to have been in the middle stages of Alzheimer's disease.

Of the 2002 accusation that Sullivan had fondled a boy in 1966, church officials said they did not believe the accuser, "because he didn't tell them sooner." The accuser said he took so long to come forward because he thought no one would believe him.


Sullivan was succeeded by Samuel Joseph Aquila (2002-2012)

2006 Holy Spirit Fargo ND In residence.

Sullivan died June 12, 2006


Sources: Official Catholic Directory (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1956-1986)

"In My Opinion, This Man Was Severely Abused and Damged by Agents of the Catholic Church", By Range Stacey, Lansing State Journal, June 30, 2002
Diocese Not Named in '95 Abuse Deal, by Range Stacey, Lansing State Journal, July 11, 2002
Abuse Charges Won't Be Pursued, By Tim Martin, Lansing State Journal, July 23, 2002
Friars to Help Sex-Abuse Victims, Lansing State Journal, August 5, 2002
Bishop Sullivan: a Father Figure, By Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald (North Dakota), June 13, 2006
Lansing Diocese Believes Priest Abused Boys in 1950s, 1960s, By Kathleen Lavey, Lansing State Journal, August 24, 2010
Accused U.S. Bishops,

Priests in a Parish: We use the following convention to show a priest's place among the clergy of a parish: 1/2 means that he is the first priest listed in the Official Catholic Directory (usually the pastor) and that there is a total of two priests at the parish. The shorthand 3/4 means that the priest is listed third on a four-priest roster. See our sample page from the Directory.

Note: The Official Catholic Directory aims to report the whereabouts of Catholic priests in the United States on January 1 of the Directory's publication year. Our working assumption is that a priest listed in the Directory for a given year was at the same assignment for part of the previous year as well. However, Kenedy and Sons will sometimes accept updates well into the year of publication. Diocesan clergy records are rarely available to correct this information. The Directory is also sometimes misleading or wrong. We have tried to create an accurate assignment record, given the source materials and their limitations. Assignment records are a work in progress and we are always improving the records that we post. Please email us with new information and corrections.

This assignment record collates Sullivan's career history as it is represented in the Official Catholic Directory with allegations as reported in the media. We make no representation regarding the truth of the allegation we report, and we remind our readers that the U.S. legal system presumes that a person accused of or charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Similarly, individuals who may be defendants in civil actions are presumed not to be liable for such claims unless a plaintiff proves otherwise. Admissions of guilt or liability are not typically a part of civil or private settlements. For more information, see our posting policy.

This assignment record was last updated on Oct. 29, 2012