RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Hundreds paid their final respects to Bishop Walter Sullivan at the Cathedral of Sacred Heart in Richmond Wednesday.
Sullivan, 84, served as the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese in Richmond for nearly 30 years. He died on Dec. 11 from complications of liver cancer.
Wednesday morning, family, clergy and friends gathered for his funeral.
“It was hope that gave him that unbelievable energy he had,” Sullivan’s nephew, Walter Kevin Hughes, said during the ceremony. “He was such a voice for hope and peace, and I think we have to find ways to carry that mantle forward.”
Of the many memories of Sullivan, one theme rang clear from those who knew him well: Sullivan’s heart for people knew no bounds.
“Everyone was comfortable in his presence,” Bernie Taylor, who is now a permanent Deacon in the Catholic Church because of Sullivan’s influence on his life, said. “He never was domineering over anyone. He was a brother.”
“His life his ministry has about welcoming everyone to the table, making sure there were enough chairs for everyone,” Eric LeCompte, who worked closely with Sullivan through the non-profit LeCompte works for, said.
During his time as Bishop of the Catholic Diocese in Richmond, Sullivan was known to regularly minister to people in jail.
He accepted gay and lesbian members of the church, an unpopular move with the church hierarchy in Rome.
Still, for some of his friends, Bishop Sullivan’s legacy will be his constant focus on social justice economic equality for those who might be less fortunate.
Sister Cora Marie Billings was the first African-American to lead a Catholic Parish as Pastoral Coordinator in US history. Bishop Sullivan appointed her, and she considers him a close friend.
“He was a people person and always looked at the poor and looked at justice,” Sister Billings said. “We have to continue that because, in our world today, we especially need people who are going to think of people, and people who are going to be really looking at justice and peace.”
Bishop Sullivan was laid to rest underneath the alter at the Cathedral of Sacred Heart among the other former Bishops of the Church.