Sean O’Sullivan was born in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1952. At an early age, he demonstrated an interest in politics. A chance meeting with John Diefenbaker in 1963, when Sean was just 11 years old, marked the beginning of his involvement with the Progressive Conservative Party. Diefenbaker became a mentor to him, and the two exchanged correspondence for many years. Sean became an active member of the Party, and his political career took off quickly. In 1965, he was elected to the executive of the Hamilton Area Young Progressive Conservatives, in 1968 was elected President, and also served as Youth Director for Diefenbaker’s re-election campaign. In 1970 he was elected President of the Ontario Young Progressive Conservatives, and in 1971 became Youth Adviser to Premier William Davis. Later that year, Diefenbaker chose Sean to be his Executive Assistant. In addition to his political activities, Sean enrolled at Brock University in 1969 to study political science. In 1972, he resigned as Diefenbaker’s assistant in order to run as a candidate for Hamilton-Wentworth in the federal election that year. At just 20 years of age, Sean was the youngest MP elected to the House of Commons. While working as an MP, Sean continued his studies at Brock University part-time, graduating with distinction. After being re-elected in 1974, he rose to greater prominence when he succeeded in having a private member’s bill passed making the beaver one of Canada’s national symbols. In 1977, he resigned as MP in order to pursue religious studies and become a Catholic priest. After completing four years of studies at the Irish College of Rome’s Gregorian University, Sean was ordained a priest in Toronto in 1981. In July, 1982, he was appointed Director of Vocations (full-time recruiter) for the archdiocese of Toronto. In this capacity, he implemented a controversial and widely publicized campaign to recruit priests. The recruitment succeeded in generating interest in the priesthood, doubling the number of students in the archdiocese. He was one of the founding members of Serra House, a residence for students considering the priesthood. After his term as Vocations Director ended in 1985, O’Sullivan became publisher of The Catholic Register, a weekly church newspaper. That same year, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Brock University. In January 1987, he was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada. Later that year, he submitted a report to the Attorney General of Ontario, titled You’ve got a Friend, after conducting an independent review of Advocacy for Vulnerable Adults in Ontario at the request of the government. In 1983, O’Sullivan was diagnosed with leukemia. The disease went into remission after treatment, but was incurable. In 1989, he had a bone marrow transplant at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, but died shortly afterwards. He was 37 years old. A memorial fund was established in his name, and included contributions from prominent business, church and political leaders such as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Toronto Sun Chairman Doug Crieghton and His Eminence G. Emmett Carter. The O’Sullivan family requested that Brock University be the beneficiary of the proceeds of the campaign.

Click here to view the Sean O'Sullivan fonds finding aid:

Recent Submissions

  • Ordination Program, 3 October 1981

    A program for the Ordination to the Priesthood of Sean Patrick O'Sullivan Conferred by Gerald Emmett Cardinal Carter, D.D., Ph.D., Archbishop of Toronto.
  • Father Sean O'Sullivan Ordination Invitation

    An invitation to the ordination of Father Sean O'Sullivan, October 1981. The ordination took place at St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto, 3 October 1981. His first Mass of Thanksgiving took place the next day at St. John's Church in Toronto.
  • The Spirit of Hope: Research Centre Named in Honour of Father Sean O'Sullivan

    Pullen, Heather (2015-02-12)
    An article in "Community Contact" (a publication by St. Joseph's Hospital, St. Joseph's Community Health Centre, and St. Joseph's Health Care Foundation) discussing the naming of the Father Sean O'Sullivan Research Centre. The article describes the time Father Sean spent at the hospital and his battle with leukemia.
  • Letter - John Diefenbaker to Sean O'Sullivan, 10 September 1965

    Diefenbaker, John (2015-02-11)
    A letter from John Diefenbaker, 10 September 1965. It reads "I was delighted with your letter. Your loyalty is surpassed only by your enthusiasm. I hope all of our friends will work as hard as I know you will, and if so, we cannot fail. Keep up the good work, and I will look forward to seeing you during the campaign. With very best wishes"
  • Re-election pamphlet - Sean O'Sullivan for Hamilton-Wentworth, 1974

    Hamilton-Wentworth P.C. Association (2015-02-11)
    A pamphlet for re-election for Sean O'Sullivan, Hamilton-Wentworth, 1974. Included photographs of Sean O'Sullivan and quotes from several newspapers.
  • Letter - Cal Cavendish to Sean O'Sullivan, 25 May 1975

    Cavendish, Cal (2015-02-11)
    A letter from Cal Cavendish of Cavenidish Country in Calgary, Alberta. Cavendish has written a song about former prime minister R. Honourable John Diefenbaker. He has included the lyrics to his song. A few of the lyrics: "...Well it took a little while, but he reached his destiny, He was right, he was wrong, but he ran this big country. He didn't waste much time when he had a job to do, He worked the House of Commons like a prairie thrashing crew. Good old John, we heard you John, when a man got paid for the job when the job got done."
  • Speech - Beaver Bill, 21 February 1975

    O'Sullivan, Sean (2015-02-11)
    A speech by Sean O'Sullivan, given in the House of Commons, "For the Recognition of the Beaver as a Symbol of the Sovereignty of the Dominion of Canada".
  • Brock Essay - The Political Culture of Ontario

    O'Sullivan, Sean (2015-02-11)
    An essay submitted by Sean O'Sullivan to Professor W.A. Matheson, 25 April 1977. The focus of the essay is stable government, "As one of the chief, if not the predominant, force in giving Confederation its political shape, Ontario helped bring about a central government designed to promote, and dedicated to preserve, stability. In the governing of their own province, the people of Ontario have been faithful to that same goal of stability. Perhaps that steadfast attitude says more than anything else about the political culture of Ontario."
  • Brock Essay - The Chateau Cabinet

    O'Sullivan, Sean (2015-02-05)
    An essay submitted to Professor J.E. Anderson by Sean O'Sullivan, 10 November 1975. The essay entitled, The Chateau Cabinet: A Case Study in Intra-Party Conflict, studies how "internal discontent---be it based on philosophical or personality difference---leads to intra-party conflict---and the roots of such discontent are indeed strong within the Progressive Conservative Party."
  • Correspondence - Sean O'Sullivan with Robert L. Stanfield, 1974

    O'Sullivan, Sean (2015-02-05)
    A correspondence between Robert L. Stanfield and Sean O'Sullivan regarding the future of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes. In the first letter, Mr. Stanfield requests to hear about O'Sullivan's progress. The second letter is from O'Sullivan with an update of his assignment. The third letter is from Mr. Stanfield thanking O'Sullivan for his work thus far and acknowledging the difficulties of such a project.
  • Letter - Sean O'Sullivan to Richard Nixon, 20 December 1975

    O'Sullivan, Sean (2015-02-05)
    A brief letter from Sean O'Sullivan to Richard Nixon, 20 December 1975. O'Sullivan thanks Nixon for a meeting they had in San Clemente, California. O'Sullivan remarks "It is my hope that the future will permit us to work towards the goal of a lasting Peace -- a goal to which you have already made such an outstanding contribution".
  • Letter - Ian Green to Sean O'Sullivan, July 1977

    Green, Ian; O'Sullivan, Sean (2015-02-05)
    A correspondence between Ian Green and Sean O'Sullivan from July 1977. The first letter is from 4 July 1977 from Sean O'Sullivan, titled "The Nation's Business". He requests a discussion about "Caucus morale". O'Sullivan requests that Joe Clark individually acknowledge members of the party and say "a few words about how proud he is of the men and women who form the P.C. Caucus, and how well they represent the country--moreover, how well they are prepared to help form the next Government." A response from Ian Green (Legislative Assistant) is positive and he forwards the memo to Jodi White, Director of Communications.
  • Press Release - Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway Assignment, 25 October 1973

    House of Commons Canada (2015-02-04)
    A press release assigning Sean O'Sullivan to study the future of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.
  • Sean O'Sullivan Speaks Out Speech, 28 October 1970

    O'Sullivan, Sean (2015-02-04)
    A speech given by Sean O'Sullivan, 28 October 1970, at the Annual Meeting of the Fort Erie Progressive Conservative Association. He was President of the Ontario Young Progressive Conservative Association at the time and chose to speak out on his personal position against Marijuana.
  • Letter - Sean O'Sullivan to John G. Doherty, 28 April 1975

    Doherty, John G. (2015-02-04)
    A letter from Sean O'Sullivan to John G. Doherty, editor of The Spectator, 28 April 1975. The letter includes comments from O'Sullivan regarding the direction of the Progressive Conservative Party.
  • Press Release - Youth for Diefenbaker, 1967

    Youth for Diefenbaker (2015-01-29)
    A press release from Youth for Diefenbaker, 1 August 1967. The release reads: "Hamilton Student Appointed Youth for Dief Representative. The youngest delegate to the conservative leadership convention, 15 year old Sean O'Sullivan of Hamilton, has been named Western Ontario representative of the Youth for Diefenbaker movement. This movement was formed in Ottawa to engage support of Canada's young conservatives for John Diefenbaker at the leadership convention. According to Mr. O'Sullivan, there is growing support for Mr. Diefenbaker and he will have an announcement to make in that regard at a press conference on Friday August Fourth at the Connaught Hotel."
  • Letter - Victor K. Copps to Sean O'Sullivan, 9 December 1963

    Copps, Victor K. (2015-01-29)
    A letter from Hamilton Mayor, Victor K. Copps, stating that he received a letter from Mr. O'Sullivan inviting him to a show at his school. Mr. O'Sullivan would have been about 11 years at the time. The Mayor plans to attend the show at his school and thanks Mr. O'Sullivan for the invitation.
  • Bill C-373 - First Reading, 24 January 1975

    "An Act to provide for the recognition of the Beaver (Castor canadensis) as a symbol of the sovereignty of the Dominion of Canada." Mr. Sean O'Sullivan worked to have this Bill passed, recognizing the Beaver as a symbol of Canadian sovereignty.

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