Brother Patrick Thomas Sullivan, OSB


Monk of Saint John's Abbey
Collegeville, Minnesota  

Professed: August 15, 1948
Died: January 9


Monk, Mechanic, Handyman
Thomas was born in Ivanhoe, Minnesota, to John and Edith (Nelson) Sullivan as the third son in a family of four children. Thomas attended Ivanhoe Public Elementary School where he graduated in 1936, and Ivanhoe High School where he graduated in 1940.

At the outbreak of war, Thomas joined the US Army Air Forces where he became a master mechanic. He served for five years in England as a specialist in the repair and maintenance of aircraft gunnery turrets.

After the war, Thomas returned to Ivanhoe and spoke to a diocesan priest about the religious life. While presenting a number of options he highly recommended Saint John's Abbey in Collegeville. Even though Irish redheads were rare in the predominantly German community, Thomas decided to give the monastery a chance. After an extended visit he entered the monastery and was given the name Patrick. He made his first profession of vows on August 15, 1948, at the age of 26.

Patrick's first job was in the butcher shop under the tutelage of stalwart Brother Ansgar Niess OSB. Later he was assigned to the blacksmith shop for three years where he became a cooper, making barrel staves and metal bands for dry goods and wine. He fashioned steel tools and iron tongs used in lumbering and carpentry. During these first years he took classes in mechanical arts at the Saint John's foundry managed by Father Aldrich Huhne OSB.

By 1950 he had learned the intricacies of plumbing. Patrick remembers one instance when he was reinstalling a drinking fountain on the old first floor of the monastery's south wing, now the Health Center. A number of retired monks were living there, and Father Isidore Ziegler OSB wheeled his chair past Brother Patrick on his way to see the abbot in his office nearby. On his return, Father Isidore asked, "Did you fix it for water or for beer?" "For water," Patrick answered. Wheeling on, Father Isidore muttered, "Could have left it alone."

Brother Patrick became proficient at many occupations and skills vital to the daily life of the Abbey. In the early 1950's he tended more than 60 registered Holsteins, milking them twice a day with Brother William Borgerding OSB. Patrick remembers shoeing the last team of horses at Saint John's; they had been used to pull the ornate, glass-enclosed funeral rig used for monastic burials. Patrick said that one horse was kept for a year or two, but it died with a rider in the saddle gathering cows from the pasture.

From 1952 to 1964 Brother Patrick served as a missionary at San Antonio Abad in Humacao, Puerto Rico. He taught in the school's mechanical shop and helped in the bookstore and laundry. Brother Patrick returned to the US to spend 12 years at Benilde-St. Margaret High School in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, assisting in the electrical and maintenance department. When he returned to Saint John's in 1990, Brother Patrick served part-time as an electrician and fixer of many gadgets and tools.

In retirement Brother Patrick served as a driver for the retired residents of St. Raphael Hall. He was always a great fan of Johnny athletics, especially SJU football and Prep School hockey. Nothing could keep him from attending every home football game at Saint John's University.

Brother Patrick was a multitalented and generous steward of the monastery's goods through long years of ready and competent service. He celebrated his Golden Jubilee of Monastic Profession in 1998.

Brother Patrick's health continued to decline and despite his determined and indomitable spirit, he died in his sleep at Collegeville on Sunday, January 9, the Baptism of the Lord.

He is survived by his sister, Phyllis "Kelly" Carmien, of Palm Desert, California; nephews and nieces, John and Patty Sullivan of Woodbury, MN, and Tom and Kathy Sullivan of Duluth, MN; many loving grand nieces and nephews and his monastic community. The Liturgy of Christian Burial will be celebrated for Brother Patrick at 3 p.m. on Thursday, January 13, in Saint John's Abbey Church with interment in the abbey cemetery.

We ask each community member to offer two Masses according to the manner of his participation in the priesthood of Christ. We commend our brother, Patrick, to your prayers.

Abbot John Klassen OSB and the monks of Saint John's Abbey.