Interview with Bob Sullivan

Patrick Murphy: Hello everyone. This is Patrick Murphy with the Augustinians. Today I'm with Bob Sullivan. Bob Sullivan is long been affiliated with our high school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Cascia Hall Preparatory School. He is also an Augustinian Affiliate. Bob, it is a delight to have you with us today.

Bob Sullivan: Well, it is great to be here.

Murphy: Well, thank you for taking the time for the interview. I wanted to ask you a few questions, as I am asking many of our friars and volunteers. The first thing that I would like to ask is could you share with us how you first came to know the Augustinians?

Sullivan: Sure, I would be happy to. I started in the seventh grade at Cascia Hall here in Tulsa. That was the youngest grade that they had. At that time, Cascia was all boys, 7 through 9. About a third of the student body was boarding students. I was not a boarder. I was a day hop. Anyway, my brother was three years older than I had gone... Was ahead of me at Cascia, and I started in the seventh grade. I absolutely loved it, and even at that young age, I was well aware that I was getting a very good education. I embraced that, and it wasn't just the academic part, either, I was very not just comfortable, but anxious to be around the Augustinian priests who were running Cascia and teaching there, so I took it pretty strongly at a young age.

Murphy: Even further on, as I said earlier, I know you are an Augustinian Affiliate, and for some of our listeners who don't know what that means, you are kind of wed to the family now.

Sullivan: I am, like it or not.

Murphy: Well, since you are part of that family, either nowadays or looking back on those days back in seventh grade, are there any particular Augustinians that impacted your life?

Sullivan: Absolutely. Just to name names, and I am proud to do it, Father Spielmann, he passed away here just a couple years ago, taught me two or three courses during the time I was at Cascia. He also coached me in two sports and was a significant influence on me as a young fellow. Father John Gaffney, the same thing. He didn't coach me, but he taught me two or three courses in my tenure there, and he is still with us. He is in a retirement home here in Tulsa. 95 years old. I just went out last week to visit with him, and he's sharp as he can be, so those two for sure.

There was a Father Tom Nash who taught me as well and I'd like to, if I could have a second, just to relate an anecdote.  When I got out of graduate school, and I was 23 years old, I guess, 24, and I was engaged to be married, but not yet married. I had a job lined up but had not yet started, so I thought it was a good time to make a retreat, and I did go to a retreat house in Michigan and spent three days there. The retreat master asked us to come to one of the sessions, to see if we could identify, I didn't have to have names, identify four or five people that have impacted our lives to that point, other than our parents, siblings, and wives, if we had them. I went through that exercise and came up with four names, excuse me, five names, and four of them were Augustinian-related. Three were priests, the three priests I mentioned, a fourth was a student at Cascia Hall. He was older than I, but set a wonderful example for me, and then the fifth one was someone not affiliated with the Augustinians, so there's a pretty good indication right there, at age 24, four out of the five people that had impacted my life favorably and meaningfully were Augustinians, so it runs pretty deep with me.

Murphy: That's incredible. I've never heard of that exercise, but that really starts to put things in perspective when you have that many people coming back from the Augustinian family, I guess you could say, that changed your life for the better. That's...

Sullivan: And I had been in grade school had been under the Benedictine Sisters for six years, and then in school, excuse me, college, I was at Notre Dame and the Holy Cross Fathers, and graduate school, I was in a state school, University of Michigan. I have been exposed to a lot of people who had influenced me, but not as dramatically and heavily and positively as those four Augustinians.

Murphy: OK. Well, I know that you said that they had formed you in the past to growing up to who you are today, but what would you say, today, the role is of the Augustinian order. Do you think that the Augustinian Order is still relevant in today's society?

Sullivan: Well, I think it's highly relevant in today's society. My wife and I have been blessed with six children, all of who went through Cascia Hall in Tulsa, same school, and I was very active in the school board, chairing that, running the drives and that sort of thing that you do when you're a parent of students there, and that brought me in touch with the more recent years of the Augustinian team than when I was there a long time ago, including Father Tack and Father Brecht and Father Bernie as headmasters at Cascia during our children's time there, and they are obviously more modern than the ones that I grew up with in the sense that they are contending with all of the problems of today, and societal problems. The way they guided our school and the children through that, they are highly relevant, and I think give us a strong chance for our children and even us adults to contend with what's going on in the world, because they are so grounded and steeped to the Augustinian traditions and setting up as an example, so highly relevant.

Murphy: OK. Well, you are helping us a lot with all of the many efforts that the Augustinians are trying to do. You serve on the Province Advancement Advisory Council. I know you have been helping a lot with the Continuing our Journey of Faith capital campaign, as well. Why are you helping with those efforts, and the campaign?

Sullivan: Well it's the simple matter of giving back. I just talked for the last few minutes about all of the good things that the Augustinians have provided our family. There have been a lot of friends around us. I just want to give back. It's an easy one for me, especially when you consider that there has not been a capital drive to take care of the older priests and to support those in formation. There hasn't been a drive like that in, I don't know, 20 years or so, and so we've got some catching up to do, and I am very happy to get involved in it, because the more we can take care of the older priests and provide for a new crop of young ones, the more good that can be done in this society that is crying for it.

Murphy: I think that's a great reason to give back. You said that, as you said, four out of five people have impacted your life, and what better way to give back with what you are doing for us.

Sullivan: Exactly.

Murphy: Other people are deciding to give and to donate and to volunteer for that same reason, to give back. Are there any other reasons do you think that people should give to this capital campaign or participate in any way?

Sullivan: Well, I just think that with all of the things that are going on in this troubled world these days, the Catholic Church is like a big oak tree in the middle of it, and the Catholic Church is made up of a whole patchwork of diocesan priests and sisters and brothers and all the different orders. I happen to resonate with the Augustinians for the reasons that I have already enunciated.

Just in a broader scale, we need more vocations, and we need to take care of those priests that have taught us and served us so well. I think, just on a Catholic level, universally, it's a good reason for people to consider the needs of the Augustinian Order, which is one of many orders, of course, but It's a darn good one.  St. Augustine has impacted the entire, not just the Catholic church, but back through history, historically, he's impacted a lot of people. It's just a very wonderful cause, and the way Father Bernie and others have structured this, all the money is going where it needs to go, to help these Augustinians. It's a very worthwhile cause, and could be justified by anybody, rather you've had the good fortune to be connected with Augustinians like I have or not.

Murphy: Yeah, yeah. You know, it's funny that you say that. I was just speaking with Michael Gerrity earlier in the office, and we were talking about how there are all of these other orders. We are not necessarily saying that we are better than any other order, or anything like that. But to say that, you think about it, it's not like you can say that the world needs less holy men, that the world needs less priests. That's not the argument at all. We're just trying to follow in the footsteps of St. Augustine, who you said was very influential, just in creating the structure of religious life. He's probably the most quoted saint in the Catholic Church. Many of the popes continue to point back to his writings. They are relatable and they are inspirational.

Sullivan: I can't tell you how many times our six children have mentioned, dozens of times, through their education, higher education, college and graduate school, how many times they mentioned, at schools that are not Augustinian, run by other orders or state schools, they hear references to or actually work with readings of St. Augustine. The fact that they are grounded in high school with the Augustinian principles and so on. It just shows how far reaching the Augustinian influence is through St. Augustine's writings and so on. So, you are exactly right. So it's very wonderful. We would need to perpetuate it. Those who are able to help will help, because we haven't been at this for 20 years. It's high time we saddled up and get behind the needs of the Augustinians.

Murphy: I agree, yeah, and that's part of what this campaign is about, just getting the message out there, so that we can continue to spread the Good Word of the Church and of Jesus Christ and the writings of St. Augustine. That's the main reason why we are doing this capital campaign.

I want to thank you again for taking the time for our listeners. If you have any other questions or want to learn more about the campaign, please feel free to continue browsing here at, or you can contact the campaign director Michael Gerrity at 773-595-4035. Thank you once again, so much, Bob Sullivan, for all you do and for taking the time out so that people can listen to this interview.

Sullivan: Good. Thank you Patrick. It's an easy subject to talk about for me.

Murphy: OK. We will let you get back to it. Have a good day.

Posted on December 5, 2014 and filed under Bob Sullivan.