The Unified Life: New Student Support Coordinator for New England
September 27, 2022
With a head and a heart formed by Thomas Aquinas College’s program of Catholic liberal education — and refined by 11 years of marriage, motherhood, and evangelization — Emily (Barry ’11) Sullivan is uniquely well suited for her new part-time position as student support coordinator on the New England campus. “I had a more circuitous route to TAC than most,” Mrs. Sullivan laughs, “but that prepared me well.”
Before making her way to the California campus as a 23-year-old freshman in 2007, she spent a year at another college, followed by a year and a half of discernment with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, and then a year as a NET missionary in Ireland. “My time in religious life taught me the importance of balancing prayer, studies, and recreation,” she says. “And my time elsewhere showed me that that balance does not often come easily to young people.”
As a student, she often took the initiative in helping her peers achieve that balance. “When I came to TAC, I tried to help my classmates nurture their intellectual lives by setting aside time for prayer, fellowship, and recreation,” she says. “I planned informal outings, such as weekend trips to museums or concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, but also more formal events, such as women’s retreats and vocation visits.” By taking time to re-energize and re-focus, her fellow students were better able to make the most of their studies.
More than a decade later, Mrs. Sullivan is now charged with enriching the TAC experience once more. Her work includes not only creating fruitful social activities, but also preparing students for life after graduation by helping them discern God’s will for their futures and putting them in touch with professional guides. “I know many people in various fields throughout the alumni network,” she says. “So I can help students find the mentors they need.”
It was while a student at the College that Mrs. Sullivan met her husband, Joe (’09), whom she married soon after graduating. She then worked fulltime as a teacher at The Montfort Academy, just outside New York City, but left after nine months to give birth to the first of the couple’s three daughters. “After Brigid was born, I continued to do a little part-time work, such as teaching a senior philosophy class on Friday afternoons,” she says. That habit of “a little part-time work” has continued ever since.
“My time in religious life taught me the importance of balancing prayer, studies, and recreation. And my time elsewhere showed me that that balance does not often come easily to young people.”
“In the decade or so since graduating, I have been blessed with various opportunities to serve the Church through studying, writing, and teaching — all skills that were enhanced by my time at the College,” Mrs. Sullivan reflects. For three years she worked as a writer and retreat director for Endow — a Catholic apostolate that promotes the authentic theology of womanhood, rooted in the teaching of Pope St. John Paul II — and led seminars for the Witherspoon Institute at Princeton University. Along with Mr. Sullivan, she served on the Pastoral Council of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, working closely with then-Archbishop Charles J. Chaput on issues related to religious freedom and catechesis. When their family lived in Washington, D.C., she managed special projects for the Thomistic Institute.
“All these jobs were part-time — we have three girls!” Mrs. Sullivan laughs. “But sometimes God’s goodness has even allowed me to do some of those things with a baby on my hip — like give the keynote for the Edith Stein Conference at Notre Dame with my three-month-old beside me!”
The Sullivans live on a farm just one mile west of Northfield, and their home has become a popular spot for community gatherings. “The farm has proven to be a wonderful place to celebrate feast days, share meals, and make music together,” she says. “It’s been such a great way to get to know the students and deepen our bonds of friendship.” And as a native New Yorker, Mrs. Sullivan is grateful for the opportunity to return to her alma mater — only now on the East Coast.