Together, Dr. John and Marylee Hullare one of 14 new “deacon couples” for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles,following John’s ordination to the permanent diaconate June 11 at the Cathedralof Our Lady of the Angels. And, like their fellow couples, they have beenbusily engaged for a number of years at their parish — in the Hulls’ case, St.Rita Church in Sierra Madre.
John Hull becomes the third deacon ordained for St. Rita’s, since the reinstitutionof the permanent diaconate in the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960s. He andMarylee join Deacon Manuel and Griselda Valencia in ministering to thespiritual needs of the 1,135 families of this faith community, under thedirection of the pastor, Msgr. Richard Krekelberg. (Hull’s early mentor, theparish’s beloved first deacon, Ernie Nosari, passed away in 2005.)
‘I felt called to serve’
“I grew up as a Christmas and Easter Christian,” says John Hull. “Then I facedthe tumultuous college environment of Ohio State at the height of its unrest,where I drifted away from Christianity altogether.”And then he drifted back after college, when seemingly chance circumstances inBoston introduced him to Marylee, and simultaneously “brought me back to Christianityin my own St. Paul-like conversion. I then felt called to serve.”
He began studies for a Masters in Divinity in 1976, and was ordained tominister in the American Baptist Church. In 1984 he returned to study for asecond Master’s degree, this time in Urban Ministry at Fuller TheologicalSeminary in Pasadena. After graduation, he pastored two Los Angeles churchesuntil 1992, when he assumed an administrative role at Fuller, entered theirDoctor of Divinity program, and taught there as an adjunct assistant professorof Practical Theology for a decade.
In the late 1990s, he chose to become Catholic, studying under Deacon Nosari,and was confirmed at Easter 1999. Feeling called again into active ministry,John and Marylee were mentored and encouraged by Deacon Manuel and ChelaValencia to move forward as a couple into the diaconate ministry.
The opportunity to enter the ordained, permanent diaconate ministry is open toactive, practicing Catholic men ages 31-60, married or single. “Most deacons,”Hull comments, “are paid by the church. Most hold full time ‘secular’ careersoutside the church. It is our particular mission and ministry to bring the‘outside world’ perspective to our pastor.”In 2006, the Hulls enrolled in the Diaconate formation program, and havededicated nearly every weekend together to the program’s study for John’sordination over the past two years. They will serve St. Rita’s together.
During his formation, John felt “a stirring in my heart to get back to doingdirect Christian ministry, in choosing hospice ministry to the dying and theirfamilies.” He recently accepted a full time ministerial position at MissionHospice in South Pasadena.
Marylee, his wife of 36 years, currently teaches science at the Oxford Schoolin Rowland Heights. The Hulls — Sierra Madre residents since 1992, with fourchildren (the youngest attending nearby Alverno High School) — will continuetheir ministry in several areas at St. Rita’s, including the Liturgy of theHours held weekly on Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. in St. Rita’s Oratory chapel; theirministry to the visually impaired CLIMB residents at their Sierra Madrefacility; and Marylee’s position on the St. Rita School board, where theiryoungest daughter attended elementary school.Their joint hope and ministry is to foster and further ecumenical conversationand outreach, focusing their unique spiritual journey and path on thecommonalities of John’s Catholic faith and Marylee’s Protestant tradition andheritage.
Msgr. Krekelberg, who presided at a June 12 Mass of Thanksgiving celebratingJohn’s ordination, speaks of the couple in glowing terms.
“When I first came to St. Rita,” he recalls, “John, in his characteristichumility, shared his personal history of religious experience and ministry withme. I knew from that moment that John and Marylee would play an important rolein the unfolding of our own parish story. Because the diaconate formationprogram takes at least five years, I knew it would be a highlight of ourtransition into St. Rita’s second century. We all rejoice that John hasanswered God’s call to this ministry, via a long searching path, full ofspiritual steppingstones.”