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The only man in the convent: Local author recounts two years spent in Jamaican orphanage

There are few benefits to the being the only man in the convent, or being the only “big brother” to 250 boys in an orphanage. But for local author Jay Sullivan, those benefits include broadened perspective, deeper insight and greater compassion.

Sullivan, author of “Raising Gentle Men: Lives at the Orphanage Edge,” a memoir about the two years he spent living at Alpha Boys School, an orphanage in Kingston, Jamaica, run by the Sisters of Mercy, will present a public lecture at Salve Regina on Tuesday, March 17 at 7 p.m. His book has been named the Catholic Press Association’s 2014 Best Book by a Small Publisher. It is already used in classes and programs nearly a dozen universities.

Through the stories of the boys, the nuns and the lay volunteers at Alpha, Sullivan will discuss three central themes: Our common struggle to define our identity in life; the goal of ensuring our identity adds value to the world; and the need to build a community around us to help us achieve that value.

All of the author’s proceeds from the book support the work of the Sisters of Mercy and the Jesuits in Jamaica.

He is the managing partner at Exec|Comm, a communications consulting firm. He and his 70-plus colleagues help professionals improve their effectiveness on the job by honing their communication skills.

Sullivan joined Exec|Comm after nine years as a practicing attorney. He received his J.D. from Fordham University School of Law in 1989. For two years, he acted as in-house legal counsel at Covenant House, a crisis shelter for runaway and homeless teenagers. Following his Fellowship, Sullivan spent seven years practicing insurance law on behalf of Lloyds of London.

After graduating from Boston College in 1984 with a B.A. in English, Sullivan spent two years in the BC International Volunteer Program teaching English language and composition, and living at Alpha Boys School.

As a freelance writer, he has been published in Readers Digest, Catholic Digest, Parents Magazine, The Golfer, and The New York Times.