Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo by Michael Alexander
Sister Marie Sullivan, who died Feb. 9, is pictured in this 2009 file photo at the Sullivan Center, where she served the poor with dignity, helping them to become self-sufficient. She made her perpetual profession as a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa in 1954. 


Sister Marie Sullivan’s service made a difference with the poor  

By GEORGIA BULLETIN STAFF | Published February 21, 2022

SINSINAWA, Wis.—Sister Marie Sullivan, OP, died Feb. 9, at St. Dominic Villa, Hazel Green, Wis. Her religious name was Sister Dennita. She was 90 years old. 

Natural burial took place Feb. 11 in the Motherhouse Cemetery, Sinsinawa, Wis. The funeral Mass will be held at the motherhouse in Sinsinawa Feb. 25.  

Sister Marie made her first religious profession as a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa Aug. 5, 1951, and her perpetual profession Aug. 5, 1954. She taught for 19 years before working as a social worker.  

Sister Marie helped develop programs where people in need of housing, food and clothing could meet those needs and move beyond their present circumstances in life through education and counseling. Through her tenacity, multiple services were connected and streamlined.  

Sister Marie was a prayerful person who treated those she met with respect and dignity. She celebrated her Irish heritage. She would ask, “What are you doing to make a difference with the poor?”  

In addition to Georgia, she served in New York, Illinois and Missouri. In the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Sister Marie served at Christian Emergency Help Centers as social ministry director, beginning in 1983. This organization became The Sullivan Center, where she was founder and served as administrator from 1992 to 2011.   

The ministry helped the poor in Southwest Atlanta to become self-sufficient. The center merged with St. Vincent de Paul Georgia in 2012. 

Sister Marie received the 11 Alive Community Service Award in 1995, the West Point Society of Atlanta’s Outstanding Georgia Citizen Award in 2002 and Atlanta’s Phoenix Award in 2009. She talked about her work as the community honored her.  

“What I’ve learned is that many people have a great faith. You and I couldn’t survive on the streets,” said Sister Marie. “ I don’t know if I could have lived through some of the problems they have to live with,” she said. 

She also served as co-director of ECOPAAT, a nonprofit organization committed to informing families about health and nutrition, earth stewardship and urban agricultural economy in Atlanta. 

In a Georgia Bulletin interview, Sister Marie described her motto for helping others with “a hand up, not a hand out.” 

She implemented an approach that required people to attend classes before receiving assistance. 

“One of my big things is not to take the responsibility from the individual, but help them see the problem,” said Sister Marie. “I say to people, I will help you. I won’t walk in front of you and I won’t walk behind you, I will stand next to you for you to be able to do it yourself.” 

Sister Marie was born Sept. 17, 1931, in Chicago, the daughter of Dennis and Mary (Sullivan) Sullivan. Her parents and two brothers, John Sullivan and Gerald Sullivan, preceded her in death. She is survived by nieces and nephews and her Dominican Sisters with whom she shared life for 70 years. 

Memorials may be made to the Sinsinawa Dominicans, 585 County Road Z, Sinsinawa, WI, 53824-9701 or online at  

Re-broadcasts of the wake and Feb. 25 funeral for Sister Marie are available online at