Although his time was short at St. Rita Catholic Church in Solon, the Rev. John J. Mullee said he has made his mark on parish life and takes with him energy from the entire congregation.
“I look at the energy of this community, and it’s like the image of planting the seed,” Rev. Mullee said. “It’s that spirit, that energy of what Christ is calling us for, that I will take with me.”
Rev. Mullee, who served as associate pastor at St. Rita for two and a half years, will take on his first pastoral role at the age of 58 when he begins this week as the head of St. Michael Church in Independence. He celebrated his final Mass at St. Rita last week and was honored at a reception after weekend Masses late last month.
The Cleveland native, who came to the priesthood later in life about six years ago, has had only one other assignment besides St. Rita’s, which was at Our Lady Help of Christians in Litchfield Township. He attended St. Mary Seminary in Wickliffe.
While at St. Rita, Rev. Mullee began a Giving Garden, now in its second year, to help provide fresh fruits and vegetables for those in need. He had a similar garden at his last parish and decided to bring it to St. Rita, where the Social Justice Commission embraced it and took charge, he said.
Rev. Mullee works in the garden to plant, weed and harvest.
Moved by the parish’s Latin American mission team, he has collaborated with them during his time at St. Rita to raise money for the church’s mission in El Salvador, where he has visited three times.
“I was moved by them and how that falls into their whole social justice mission umbrella,” he said. “They are doing such great things.”
Rev. Mullee also describes with awe the creation at St. Rita of a bereavement ministry that began with one parishioner who was active in Hospice of the Western Reserve.
“That is now up and running and has a whole team now” he said.
Meeting members of the Solon community was one of his greatest joys while at St. Rita, he said.
“While working out at the rec center, I loved chatting with people,” he said.
Rev. Mullee, a former member of the U.S. Air Force where he achieved the rank of captain, also enjoyed his close relationship with members of the Solon VFW.
“I’ve gained a lot of friends there,” he said.
A graduate of Miami University of Ohio, Rev. Mullee held various management positions prior to entering the priesthood. It was witnessing the faith and giving nature of his parents, though, that ultimately drew him to the priesthood.
“It was how they lived out their faith,” he said. The oldest of six children, Rev. Mullee watched as his parents worked multiple jobs to put their children through college, while still finding time to give to others, working in a local food pantry.
Rev. Mullee imitated that going as an active participant in Catholic Relief Services, which serves more than 100 million people in 92 countries. He has shared much of that mission through stories he would tell St. Rita school children.
He is excited to lead a congregation for the first time. “I would always say I would do things with the help of God.
“It is always waking up every morning and saying ‘I need your help God.’” And at the end of the day, asking yourself “what have I done for my family, for my friends or the strangers in need.”
He looks forward to networking and doing all he can to get to know people at his new parish and in the community of Independence and finding out what they can do as a parish community “to grow the community and be there for each other.”