Fr. Daniel O'Sullivan remembered for Irish wit, dedicated service over 63 years

Fr. Daniel O'Sullivan, who most recently served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Ray Township, but who served at multiple local parishes in retirement, died May 6 at the age of 89. (Archdiocese of Detroit file photo)

ROYAL OAK Fr. Daniel O’Sullivan was a dedicated diocesan priest for more than 60 years, a proud Irishman known for his friendliness who continued to serve and offer Mass years past his retirement.

Fr. O'Sullivan died May 6 at the age of 89.

His funeral Mass was celebrated May 11 at the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak by his longtime friend, Fr. Joe Horn.

Fr. O’Sullivan was born Dec. 29, 1933, in Detroit to Daniel and Anne O’Sullivan. He was baptized and attended school at St. Bernard on Detroit's east side. He attended Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, graduating in June 1956, and went on to attend St. John's Provincial Seminary in Plymouth from 1956-60.

Fr. O'Sullivan was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit on June 4, 1960, and was assigned to St. Dennis Parish in Royal Oak from 1960-65. Until COVID-19 hit in 2020, Fr. O'Sullivan was known for serving wherever he was needed across the archdiocese.

Fr. O’Sullivan served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Ray Township (1991-2000); St. Vincent Parish, Detroit (1985); and St. Boniface Parish, Detroit (1985). He also served as parochial vicar at St. Dorothy Parish, Center Line (1981); Sacred Heart Mission, Brown City (1974-79); Our Lady of Refuge Parish, Orchard Lake (1967-72); and Patronage of St. Joseph Parish, Detroit (1965-67). Fr. O’Sullivan also served as a chaplain at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak from 1981-85, and at Children's Hospital in Detroit from 1985-91.

In his later years, Fr. O’Sullivan regularly assisted at St. Matthias Parish in Sterling Heights, St. Thecla Parish in Clinton Township, and St. Andrew Parish in Rochester.

“I heard stories he helped all over the place,” Mark Taylor, a parishioner at St. Thecla, told Detroit Catholic. “He was so dedicated. He retired around 2000, and he had some back issues, which made it more difficult, but he never let it stop him. He didn’t use it as an excuse to stop saying Mass. He was dedicated, and we were grateful to have him.”

Fr. O'Sullivan was also known for being an excellent homilist.

“He was a terrific homilist, and he was very warm,“ said Deacon Tom Houle of St. Thecla. “He had a great sense of humor as well.”

Deacon Houle described Fr. O’Sullivan as a “holy and dedicated” priest who was proud to be an Irishman.

“Fr. Dan's influence was wide among the Irish in Detroit and Windsor. The culture of Ireland was deep in his soul,” one person wrote on his obituary memory board. “Friendliness is a foremost characteristic of Irish people, and he was very friendly. Fr. Dan would quickly engage one in a conversation and later remember your name and your story. To him, every person was a unique individual. Though we never shared a parish with him, he was in the fiber of our family. In 1955, he, as a seminarian, sang at our wedding.”

Additionally, Fr. O'Sullivan’s memory will live on in the archives of the New York Times, where it was reported in 1996 that when visiting the Bronx, he was robbed by two thieves. Fr. O'Sullivan, who was wearing his Roman collar, handed over $60. As the men ran away, one of the men noticed his collar and made the sign of the cross before fleeing.

Fr. O’Sullivan is predeceased by his parents and his sisters. He is survived by a brother as well as numerous nieces and nephews and grandnieces and nephews. Donations may be made in his memory to The Society of St. Vincent de Paul or to the Fr. Solanus Capuchin Soup Kitchen.


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