Fr Richard Sullivan SDS, Parish Priest of the Church of the Sacred Heart, Chew Valley, announced to parishioners last weekend that the Open University is conferring an Honorary Doctorate upon him. The recognition follows a remarkably rich journey of faith and learning for Fr Richard who had to leave school without qualifications and 'without prospects'. He was called up to the armed forces just as World War Two was ending, and took part in liberating and repatriating occupants of German prison camps. Bearing witness to conflict and suffering had a profound effect and led to him joining the Society of the Divine Saviour as a late vocation upon demobilisation. After ordination as a Catholic priest, his Superior required him to teach science and to obtain a science degree. By attending University by day, thirty miles away from where he was living, and teaching by night both were accomplished. Academic and pastoral placements followed including lecturing and chaplaincy work at Colleges of Education, Aston and Keele Universities and a number of Polytechnic Colleges. Attending University part time he received a Master of Education and his fourteen years with the Territorial Army earned him the Territorial Decoration. In 1991 when open heart surgery left him critically ill a second operation saved his life and provided renewed vigour to his ministry. He subsequently became Provincial of his religious community, the Society of the Divine Saviour, and fostered diverse communities from Borneo to the Apaches in Phoenix. Talking about how he received the news of his Honorary Doctorate, Fr Richard said: "My first intimation of the degree came in a letter from the Vice Chancellor which said, 'The Senate of the Open University recently voted to offer you the honorary degree of Doctor of the University in recognition of your Public Services'." "What pleases me most about receiving the degree is that it was past students of mine that proposed me for it. Over the years hundreds of students, soldiers, and parishioners have invited me into their lives and given me an opportunity to serve them. The degree will serve to remind me of the great privilege this has been." Still living on borrowed time he continues his vocation of encouraging others to exceed their prospects. The conferment of Fr Richard's Honorary Doctorate will take place on 3 April in Torquay. Source: Clifton Diocese
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