Jesuit Father Paul Michael Sullivan serves as spiritual director at the Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, Mass.
“Everybody has a vocation,” he said. “God is no further from ourselves than we are.”
Here, Fr. Sullivan’s mission is to help spiritual seekers grow in their relationship with God and in willing service to their neighbor. He compared a relationship with God to a human friendship.
“They have the same dynamics,” he said. “If you want to be friends with someone, spend time with him — listen to him.”
His calling to the priesthood came gradually, a gentle nudge throughout his high school and college years.
“I don’t think it was any one moment of time,” he said.
When he inquired about the possibility of a vocation, he was advised to go to college first.
Sullivan attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., one of the nation’s leading liberal arts institutions that embraces a Catholic/Jesuit identity. There, he majored in history.
“Eventually I thought about the Jesuits to be both a priest and teacher,” he said. “I got to know quite a number of Jesuits, many of them in their late 30s and 40s, who seemed interesting and happy.”
When Sullivan graduated in 1973, he was at a crossroads.
“I did apply to do graduate work in history or American studies and got accepted in a couple of places, or I could join the Jesuits,” he said.
Sullivan has spent time teaching high school in Maine and Massachusetts and also as a parish priest.
“I was open to another couple of years of parish work. I enjoyed being pastor,” he said. “But as things evolved, I ended up at Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester.
Noted for the spectacular beauty of its rocks, ocean and woods, the retreat house provides an idyllic environment for contemplation and prayer.
This is Sullivan’s third year as a member of the staff, which includes four Jesuits and a Sister of St. Joseph.
Based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the retreats are open to people of diverse backgrounds and traditions who are seeking God in their lives.
“How do you see where God may be calling you? Sullivan said. “It is where your deepest desires intersect with the community’s deepest needs.”
You can read more about Fr. Sullivan’s experiences and about the Eastern Point Retreat House at SouthCoastToday.com.