Tony Fulton appointed to fill role
Story by Tess Wahlmeier
LINCOLN (SNR) - In January, Bishop James Conley announced that Father John Sullivan, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Lincoln, resigned from his position as the chairman of the Finance Council for the Diocese of Lincoln.
Father Sullivan has worked in diocesan financial administration for 10 years, first as chief financial officer and then as chairman of the Finance Council, all while tending his own parish and fulfilling the duties bestowed on him by the bishop.
Father Sullivan resigned from his position to spend more time with his parishioners at Blessed Sacrament.
“I’m looking forward to being able to be more responsive to the people of the parish,” he said. “They certainly deserve that, and of course, parish work is where the heart of the priest is, anyhow,” he said.
Bishop Conley praised Father Sullivan’s dedication to the work of financial administration.
“Father Sullivan really has done something extraordinary,” the bishop said. “He has faithfully tended to the financial needs of our entire diocese, with incredible personal generosity. I’m so grateful for his service.”
“It’s been challenging,” Father Sullivan admitted, “but one of the things that certainly has made a huge difference is that the bishop has always been very gracious with assigning to me very good assistant pastors, and they’ve carried much of the work of the parish for me.”
Although he is eager to focus on parish life, Father Sullivan said his work with the finance council and the staff and priests of the chancery has been very rewarding.
“Over the years, just being a part of the finance council - just trying to help guide the bishop - has always been a great privilege because finances, whether we like it or not, touch almost every part of our lives, and certainly, that’s true for the Church,” he said.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, diocesan chief financial officer, said he’s happy to see Father Sullivan have the opportunity to focus on his own parish.
“Father Sullivan has been enjoyable to work with,” Fitzpatrick said. “He was the diocesan finance officer for a long time and a pastor for years prior to that. He knows very well the history of the diocese and the challenges it faces.”
A diocesan finance officer is responsible for all of the day-to-day management of financial affairs in the diocese, and for supporting the parishes, seminary, Catholic Social Services, and other Catholic ministries in their own financial administration. The Finance Council, which Sullivan has helmed at Bishop Conley’s appointment, is comprised of business and financial experts, responsible for advising the bishop on the financial affairs of all Catholic entities in the Diocese of Lincoln.
Fitzpatrick and Father Sullivan have worked together on a number of projects, including the Joy of the Gospel capital campaign, adding a more formalized budgeting process, automating the administration of some appeals and new diocesan accounting software, to name a few. Fitzpatrick said that Father Sullivan’s wealth of knowledge regarding the Diocese of Lincoln has been extremely beneficial in understanding financial matters of the diocese.
“His insights from the perspective of the finance officer of the diocese as well as that of serving as a pastor and running a school have been very helpful to me,” Fitzpatrick said. “I sincerely appreciate his friendship and the insights he has shared with me regarding diocesan and parish finances.”
To succeed Father Sullivan, Bishop Conley has appointed Tony Fulton of St. Peter Parish in Lincoln. Fulton is a business owner, former state senator, and Nebraska’s tax commissioner. Fulton called Father Sullivan one of the ‘unsung heroes’ when it comes to service.
“He’s going to be sorely missed,” Fulton said. “It’s the experience that we lose with Father Sullivan, the energy that we lose, his faithfulness and fidelity to his job here and to the finance council. He is just an inspiring figure. You can’t really replace that.”
Fulton said Father Sullivan has always served the people of the Diocese of Lincoln quietly and humbly, yet with great energy. Few people know Father Sullivan earned a graduate degree in electrical engineering before entering the seminary. Bishop Conley pointed out that Father Sullivan has “always offered his brilliance, his time, and his virtue to this diocese, and to the will of God in his life.”
“He’s put his considerable and immense talents at the service of Christ and His Church,” Fulton said, “and that is what we’re all called to do in unique ways with respect to our own vocation. That’s what it looks like to have someone put himself at the service of Christ - that’s what it looks like in the person of Father Sullivan.”
Fulton said he can’t even pretend to know the load Father Sullivan has carried between his parish, his duties, and his position as chairman, but he has carried that load with grace.
“Father Sullivan is a remarkably talented person,” Fulton said. “He’s very well educated, and I know from my experience that he’s very intelligent, very fast, very sharp, and then you throw in all of the intangibles like his enthusiasm and fidelity to his job, as well as the experience that he’s accumulated . . . You can’t replace that.”
Father Sullivan is very confident in the abilities of the finance council and in Fulton, now taking the position as chairman.
“He’ll do a good job,” Father Sullivan said of Fulton. “He’s a good businessman with a good mind for numbers, and he has a great love for the diocese and for his Catholic faith. You couldn’t ask for a better person.”
Father Sullivan said it will be fun for him to look forward in the future and see how the finance council will continue to grow with the leadership of Fitzpatrick and Fulton.
“I know, with great confidence, that it will be well done, and I’m very pleased to be able to hand things over to such capable hands,” Father Sullivan said. “I don’t have any worries or doubts about the financial future of the diocese.”
Father Sullivan also expressed his gratitude to both Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz and Bishop Conley for entrusting him with this responsibility, and for their own personal generosity in many other ways.
Bishop Conley echoed that gratitude.
“I can’t thank him enough,” Bishop Conley said. “All of us owe Father Sullivan a very deep debt of gratitude.”
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