Assignment Record– Rev. John Thomas Sullivan

Summary of Case: John Thomas Sullivan was ordained for the Manchester NH diocese in 1942. By 1949 he had impregnated a teenage girl, arranging for an illegal abortion. The girl was hospitalized and the pregnancy continued. He was suspended in 1952 due to "improper advances toward young women." He was also accused of stalking a nursing student. Sullivan was suspended by the diocese again in 1956, responsible for another pregnancy and an abortion. He was sent to the Servants of the Paraclete's Via Coeli in Jemez Springs NM for treatment.

Sullvan was allowed to serve briefly in the Gallup diocese, in Winslow AZ in the mid-1950s. In 1958 he was assigned to the Diocese of Grand Rapids MI, where he worked in several parishes. By 2002 six women had alleged sexual abuse by Sullivan in Grand Rapids when they were girls; three of them were sisters, ages 7-12. After a few years in MI, Sullivan was assigned to parishes in WI, TX, and NM, then ministered again in AZ, in the Gallup and Phoenix dioceses, from 1960 to 1980.

In 1981 Sullivan retired, after pleading no contest to attempted sexual abuse of a girl from St. Margaret Mary's in Bullhead City AZ, where he was pastor. Three other girls from that parish are known to have alleged abuse by Sullivan. He returned to NH where he was stripped of his priestly faculties in 1983 for kissing a 13-year-old girl and making unwanted advances on another teen girl. Sullivan relocated again to AZ, then moved to an assisted living center in San Diego CA in 1988. He died September 19, 1999.

Ordained: 1942
Died: 1999

Start Stop Assignment Town/Accusations State Position Notes


Manchester bishop was John Bertram Peterson (1932-1944)

1943 St. John the Baptist Westville NH

1942 1944 St. Mary's Dover NH  



Peterson was replaced as bishop by Matthew Francis Brady (1944-1959)

1945 St. Thomas Aquinas Derry NH    
1945 1946 St. Patrick's Nashua NH    
1946 1949 St. Mary's


In 1949 Sullivan impregnated a teenage girl and arranged for her to have an abortion. The girl was hospitalized and the pregnancy was not ended. (Washington Post
April 22, 2003)



1949 1952 St. Kieran


Suspended June 16, 1952 due to "improper advances toward young women" (per personnel file). He was accused of stalking a nursing student, and he attempted suicide. (Washington Post
April 22, 2003)

1952 1956 Holy Angels


Suspended July 20, 1956 (per documents released by NH Attorney General). Sullivan was responsible for another pregnancy and illegal abortion.

1956 1958 Absent on Leave      

Sullivan was sent to Via Coeli in Jemez Springs NM, run by The Servants of the Paraclete. This was a treatment facility for priests with mental health issues, including "sexual disorders". The center's founder, Rev. Gerald Fitzgerald, wrote to Bishop Brady in 1957 to say, in essence, that those who molest children cannot change, that they should not be sent to new dioceses because they would continue to offend, and that "we are amazed to find how often a man who would be behind bars if he were not a priest is entrusted with the cura animarum."

Bishop Brady then wrote to at least 15 other bishops, whom Sullivan had asked to allow him to work in their dioceses, warning them of his history and telling them he did not recommend Sullivan. (Washington Post
April 22, 2003)

mid 1950s

Gallup bishop was Bernard Theodore Espelage, O.F.M. (1940-1969)

    Winslow AZ   Per news reports, served here briefly. (The Arizona Republic [Phoenix AZ]
May 4, 2003)


Grand Rapids bishop was Allen James Babcock (1954-1969)

1960 Holy Spirit

Grand Rapids

Three sisters accused Sullivan in 1993 of having sexually abused them over five years, beginning when they were ages 7-12, in Grand Rapids. They were Holy Spirit parishioners. He befriended their parents and abused them on visits even after he had left the diocese. The bishop knew of previous allegations against Sullivan when he accepted him as a priest in the diocese. (Grand Rapid Press (Michigan)
April 6, 2002)

Three more women came forward in 2002 to report they had been sexually abused by Sullivan as girls during his time in Grand Rapids. (Grand Rapid Press [Michigan]
April 20, 2002)

    St. Jude's Grand Rapids MI    
    St. Patrick's Grand Haven MI    
        WI   Served in Wisconsin for a time after leaving Michigan, per news reports. (Grand Rapid Press (Michigan)
June 8, 2003)
        TX   Served in Texas for a time after leaving Michigan, per news reports. (Grand Rapid Press (Michigan)
June 8, 2003)
        NM   Served in New Mexico for a time after leaving Michigan, per news reports. (Grand Rapid Press (Michigan)
June 8, 2003)


Gallup diocese


1961 St. Joseph's Winslow AZ   The Directories index Sullivan as Absent on Sick Leave Winslow AZ 1960-1963.
1960 1962 Madre de Dios Winslow AZ    
    Immaculate Conception Cottonwood AZ    
1962 1964

St. Francis

Mission-Peach Springs

Stations-Pica, Nelson, Truxton, Crozier, Hyde Park

Seligman AZ



1964 1965

St. Cecilia's


Clarkdale AZ 1/1 Sullivan was incardinated into the Gallup diocese Jan. 19,1965.
1965 1968

St. Mary's

Mission-Davis Dam

Stations-Sandy, Hackberry, Valentine, Yucca, Artillery Peaks, Chloride, Wickieup, Truxton, Oatman, Lake Havasu, Peach Springs, Nelson.

Kingman AZ 1/3 Pastor St. Mary's had a school with 131-143 students.


Phoenix bishop was Edward Anthony McCarthy (1969-1976)


St. Francis

Stations-Pica, Nelson, Truxton, Crozier, Hyde Park, Dungantown

Seligman AZ 1/1 The Phoenix diocese was formed in 1969, encompassing some of what was previously the Gallup diocese.
1970 1974 Our Lady of the Lake Havasu City AZ 1/1  
    St. John Vianney Goodyear AZ    


McCarthy was replaced as bishop by James Steven Rausch (1977-1981)

1980 St. Margaret Mary

Bullhead City

Pleaded no contest to attempted sexual abuse of a girl. She was one of four girls from this parish who accused Sullivan of sexual abuse. (The Arizona Republic [Phoenix AZ]
May 4, 2003 )

AZ 1/1  
1980 1984  


Per news reports, Sullivan retired in 1981 and returned to NH. In 1983 he was "stripped of his priestly faculties" for kissing a 13-year-old girl and "making unwanted advances" on another teen girl. (The Arizona Republic [Phoenix AZ]
May 4, 2003 )

NH   Sullivan is not indexed in the 1981, 1982, 1983, or 1984 Directories.
1984 1999 Retired  




The 1985 and 1986 Directories show a Concord NH P.O. Box, the 1987 and 1988 Directories show him to be at 400 E. Monroe, Phoenix (a 2009 google search shows this to be a Catholic Church at AZ State Univ. West), the 1989-1998 Directories list Sullivan at Nazareth House Retirement Home in San Diego CA, and the 1999 Directory lists him at The Cloisters in San Diego, which was an assisted living facility.

Sullivan died Sept. 19, 1999.

Source: Official Catholic Directory (New York: Kenedy & Sons, 1943-2000).

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 & 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.


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