Hi! I’m Owen O’Sullivan, born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1944, in a family of three girls and two boys.
After completing secondary school in 1961 I joined the Capuchin Order. It’s a Catholic religious order in the Franciscan tradition with a strong focus on fraternity. I studied at University College, Cork, from 1962 to ’66, completing an MA degree with a comparative study of the Irish, French and American Constitutions. While a student I wrote articles for a journal, now defunct, called the Father Mathew Record, and its successor, Eirigh. These were mostly short pieces of local interest. After making final profession of religious vows in 1965, I was ordained priest in 1970.
My first appointment after ordination was as chaplain to Saint Brendan’s Psychiatric Hospital, in Grangegorman, Dublin. I was there for only seven months before being asked to go to Wellington, New Zealand, as chaplain to Victoria University and to the Wellington Teachers’ College.
New Zealand, a very beautiful country, was my home for the next seven years. I very much liked the honesty, sense of justice, community spirit and hard work of New Zealanders. They have made a great success of their country, especially in terms of social justice and opportunities for anyone prepared to work and use their talents.
While there, I gave a course of lectures at the University – “Vic” – under the title Church and Society in History, and wrote a biography, Apostle in Aotearoa, of the first resident Catholic priest in the city, Father Jeremiah Joseph Purcell O’Reily, who was also a Capuchin.
In 1978, I branched out into a new phase by going to the Western Province of Zambia, in Africa, as a missionary. This involved learning the local language, Silozi. A Bantu language, it is remarkably logical and consistent, with few irregularities. My life there involved working with small Christian communities, mainly in training people for leadership roles, and also engaging in relief and development work, especially among refugees from the civil war in Angola, and, later, in working with another Zambian language, Sikwamashi. Out of this came several books on those languages, though they are not on this website; they were written on a manual typewriter in pre-computer days. I also engaged in helping train young Zambians who joined the Capuchin Order.
In 1997, I returned to Ireland and have lived in different parts of the country – Kilkenny, Carlow, West Belfast, Donegal, Raheny in Dublin and Gurránabráher in Cork, working in parishes, giving missions and retreats and editing journals. I’m now a hospital chaplain in Dublin. It is the twenty-seventh place I have lived in – so far!
During all this time, I continued to travel and read widely and to write, both books and articles. For five years, I wrote a weekly column for The Nationalist newspaper in Carlow. Though not a theologian, I wrote also for religious journals, especially The Furrow, Doctrine and Life and Spirituality. In the first two of those I wrote mainly about the Catholic church and how I hoped to see it reform itself, following the second Vatican Council (1962-65). This latter has been a source of much disappointment to me, as indeed it has to others also.
My life has been a journey, not just in a geographical sense, but, to borrow a phrase from Ronald Knox, a spiritual Aeneid. It has been a learning process, which includes learning to let go of some certainties which I confused with truth. I value the journey of the spirit and the mind, and, at seventy-two, I hope to continue it, despite the occasional storms. I invite you to share in that journey.