Sweetman, Michael (1914–96), Jesuit priest and social reformer, was born 20 March 1914 in Dublin, the seventh child of Roger M. Sweetman (1874–1954), a member of the first dáil, and his wife, Katherine (née Kelly). He had four brothers – Patrick, Rory, Edmond, and Hugh – and six sisters – Maureen, Catherine, Joan, Margaret, Juanita, and Bridget. Following his education at Mount St Benedict's, Gorey, Co. Wexford, and at Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare, on 12 September 1931 he joined the Jesuits and studied arts at University College, Dublin, philosophy at Rahan, Tullabeg, Co. Offaly, and theology at Milltown Park, Dublin. He was ordained a priest on 31 July 1945 and completed his studies in theology in 1947.
Sweetman's first appointment was to work in the Jesuit church in Gardiner Street in Dublin. However, within a few months he developed TB. During his long convalescence he began attending the children's court in Dublin, where he developed a lifelong interest in social justice and children's issues. While pursuing this interest he spent the next eighteen years in retreat work in the Jesuit retreat centres at Rathfarnham Castle, Milltown Park, and Manresa House. In 1959 he was appointed superior of the Jesuit community in Manresa House of Spirituality, but was transferred after one year, allegedly for giving most of the goods of the house to the poor. In 1965 he returned to his first ministry, in the Jesuit church in Gardiner Street, and the rest of his life was spent working in the inner city of Dublin and in the socially deprived neighbourhood of Ballymun. He pioneered the Jesuit commitment to the poor by electing to live in the tenement flats of Benburb Street and Summerhill, and, when they were demolished in the late 1970s, in the high-rise flats of Ballymun. Sweetman was also a social reformer, working for improved housing conditions in the 1960s and 1970s and speaking critically at public meetings about the neglect of the poor, which brought him into conflict with the political authorities of the time.
As Sweetman's health began to deteriorate in 1992, his mobility declined and he became very disorientated. In 1994 he returned from Ballymun to live in the community at Gardiner Street, where nursing care was available to him. When his health deteriorated further and he required twenty-four-hour nursing care, he was moved in June 1996 to a nursing home, where he died 23 October 1996.