Crystal Sullivan

Written By Jen Straniero '18

“The Church is dominated by men in leadership, but much of the work gets done by strong women,” says Crystal Sullivan, one woman at the University of Dayton who is leaving her mark as the University’s first woman and first lay Director of Campus Ministry. Sullivan began working at the University in 2004, and took on her current role in 2011. Sullivan’s tenacity for her faith is what makes her the backbone of Campus Ministry, where her days vary from participating in university leadership meetings to offering messages of consolation and support for parents of a student who has passed away. Sullivan’s favorite part of her work is the foundational behind-the-scenes work that the Campus Ministry team does to support students and allow them to succeed.

Prior to Sullivan, the director of Campus Ministry had always been a priest. When she began her directorship in 2011, she felt like the campus community was ready for the change. The inclusivity of the Marianist charism is one of reasons she feels as though priests see her and work with her as an equal. However, Sullivan shares, “I learned early on that I have to navigate positional power sometimes differently than my male colleagues because I am going to be judged on how compassionate I seem to be before anything else, which is not the same way we often judge men in power.”

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Sullivan grew up as a self-described “cradle Catholic.” Her faith had always been important, because her parish was her community. However, it was not until the end of her undergraduate experience at Kalamazoo College when she realized she wanted make a career out of her passion for faith. She then earned her Master of Theological Studies at Weston Jesuit School of Theology. She shares, “I feel called to help build the Kingdom of God by utilizing the gifts for ministry that God has given me.”

Sullivan’s favorite part about UD is the intentionality of how the campus community seeks to live out the Marianist charism. Sullivan is also inspired by the way the Marianists value lay leadership. Since she has taken over the directorship, she has strived to empower lay people to take on visible roles in the faith community, especially through leading public prayer at events like Blessed Beginnings, the annual faculty and staff interfaith prayer service.  

“I am really inspired by the wonderful women in ministry we have here...we’ll never hear them from a pulpit, but I have heard some of my colleagues give reflections, even at meetings, and thought ‘Wow, that is really something to listen to.’ Women in ministry contribute something essential to the faith community.”