Retired bishop dies of LIE crash injuries

The Rev. Joseph M. Sullivan in 2002. The

The Rev. Joseph M. Sullivan in 2002. The retired auxiliary bishop died of injuries stemming from a May 30 car accident on the Long Island Expressway in Syosset. (June 25, 2002) Photo Credit: Newsday / Viorel Florescu

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A retired Brooklyn auxiliary bishop who helped lead the Catholic Church's social work in New York City and across the nation has died of injuries from a crash on the Long Island Expressway, the Brooklyn diocese announced.

The Rev. Joseph M. Sullivan, 83, was hit May 30 after a flat tire prompted him to stop his car in the HOV lane in Syosset. He was traveling to Long Island to visit a friend. He died Friday at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, where he was taken after the accident.

Sullivan, who held master's degrees in social work from Fordham University and in public administration from New York University, helped define the mission of Catholic Charities as director in the mid-1960s and later as author of the seminal report "Toward a Renewed Catholic Charities Movement," commonly known as the Cadre Study.

"He was a great leader and he knew how to delegate and he knew how to use everyone's talents," said Msgr. Joseph A. Funaro, pastor emeritus at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Forest Hills, Queens. Funaro said he has known Sullivan since being ordained a priest 48 years ago.

"He was admired and loved by everyone that worked with him and he was one of those people that always found time to encourage you and to say the right thing . . . and just to be a person who was capable of being a good friend," said Funaro, who worked with Sullivan at Catholic Charities.

Today, the group is the largest Catholic social services organization in the country, serving more than 10 million people of all faiths, working to reduce poverty, strengthen families, and raise awareness of racial inequality and human trafficking.

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Sullivan also played what the Brooklyn diocese described as an "instrumental" role in formation of St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Centers, which in 2000 joined the hospitals and related facilities of the diocese with similar institutions conducted by the New York Sisters of Charity.

He "epitomized the best of our Church's teaching and the fundamental option for the poor," Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said in a prepared statement. "He was an outstanding priest."

Born March 23, 1930, in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, one of 11 children, Sullivan attended St. Ephrem's School and St. Michael's Diocesan High School, both in Brooklyn, and Manhattan College.

Before entering Manhattan College in l948, he spent a summer in Georgia pitching for the Americus Phillies of the Georgia-Florida League. He told a reporter that playing baseball for a living was "a boring life."

In 1950, he began studies for the priesthood at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington and was ordained June 2, 1956, by Archbishop Thomas E. Molloy at St. James Cathedral in Brooklyn.

Pope John Paul II named Sullivan an auxiliary bishop in 1980. Within the Brooklyn diocese, Sullivan held the titles of vicar for human services and regional bishop for the 62 parishes of the Brooklyn West Vicariate.

The crash that killed Sullivan occurred about 11 a.m. near Exit 43, South Oyster Bay Road, Nassau County police said. After Sullivan stopped his car, police said, another vehicle struck the rear of his car, and a third car struck the second. One driver was injured; the other was not. The LIE was closed for about 31/2 hours, and police said no criminality was involved.

The Diocese of Brooklyn said a funeral Mass for Sullivan will be at St. Ephrem's Church in Brooklyn on Wednesday at 11 a.m.

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