John Joseph Sullivan was born in Horton, Kansas on July 5, 1920. His family moved to Oklahoma City when he was 10.
He was ordained a priest on Sept. 23, 1944, for the Dioceses of Oklahoma City and Tulsa. He served parishes in Tulsa, Guthrie and Oklahoma City. While in Guthrie, he began recruiting college students to work as volunteers among the poor, starting a life-long history of involving lay people in church ministry and service to the poor.
In 1961, he went to work for the Catholic Church Extension Society, an organization dedicated to supporting mission work in poor areas within the Church.
In 1968, Bishop Victor Reed of Oklahoma City appointed him Episcopal Vicar for Eastern Oklahoma.
Pope Paul VI appointed him bishop of the Diocese of Grand Island on July 15, 1972. Bishop Sullivan's episcopal ordination took placein Tulsa, Okla., on Sept. 19, 1972. His installation as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Grand Island was held at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Grand Island on Sept. 21, 1972.
Priests of the Grand Island diocese who served under Bishop Sullivan called the leader a compassionate, pastoral man who had a vision for the diocese.
He was appointed bishop of Kansas City, Kan.,-St. Joseph, Mo., and took office there on Aug. 17, 1977 and served until his retirement on Sept. 9, 1993, due to the debilitating effects of Parkinson's disease.
Bishop Sullivan died Feb. 11, 2001 at the Jeanne Jugan Center, a care facility run by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Kansas City, Mo.