Bishop Walter Sullivan led the Richmond Catholic diocese for almost 30 years. He died Dec. 11 at the age of 84. He was beloved by all who knew him. Sullivan was a man of the church. He was Christ-like in spreading the word of God as found in scripture and in his concern for the poor and the disenfranchised. He was a humble man who treated all came in contact with him with dignity and brotherly love.
Not all Catholics agreed with what some called his liberal agenda, his outreach to those imprisoned, especially those condemned, his concerns for gays, his opposition to increased nuclear armament and his constancy in seeking peace and justice for all.
Many of his critics who sought Vatican investigation into his loyalty to church doctrine were amazed that the Pope was pleased with Bishop Sullivan's exercise of his priestly duties. He was awarded an auxiliary in the person of the Rev. David Foley, a childhood friend, to assist him in dealing with the burgeoning demands of a growing diocese. As was his mien, Sullivan never spoke out against his critics.
During his retirement he assisted his successor, Bishop Francis DiLorenzo, in assignments throughout the diocese. He became an active member of Saint Paul Catholic Church in Ginter Park. He frequently celebrated Sunday Mass for its parishioners.
Bishop Sullivan accepted the diagnosis of terminal cancer as God's will. He was a model of courage and fortitude during the few weeks preceding his death. He will be remembered by all who knew him with reverence and love and as a man of great humility and faith. Phyllis Theroux's biography of Bishop Sullivan is called "The Good Bishop." How appropriate the title!