by Joe Bollig
EASTON — Father Neal K. Stull, SOLT, 52, pastor of St. Lawrence Church in Easton and St. Joseph of the Valley Church in rural Leavenworth, died on Sept. 17 at the home of his sister and brother-in-law, Melody and Tim Hoy, in Eldora, Iowa. The cause of death was colon cancer.
Father Neal was born on Sept. 24, 1956, in Grundy Center, Iowa. He was the only son of the four children of Donald and Loretta (Connell) Stull. The family attended Sacred Heart Parish in Grundy Center, now closed.
The future priest attended Grundy Center Elementary School and Grundy Center Junior High. He graduated from Grundy Center High School in 1977, and attended Kirkwood College in Cedar Rapids. He continued his studies at the University of Iowa and graduated with a bachelor’s in communications in 1983.
After graduation he moved to Corpus Christi, Texas. There, he worked as an announcer at Catholic radio station KLUX-89.5 FM. He also worked at a pharmacy owned by a relative.
He joined the Corpus Christi Cathedral choir and, as his faith deepened, he participated in eucharistic adoration and became devoted to praying the rosary. He became part of the Marian Movement of Priests prayer apostolate. As he began to discern a vocation to the priesthood, he asked Father James H. Flanagan to be his spiritual director. Father Flanagan is the founder of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT).
He first went to St. Phillip’s Seminary in Toronto, Canada, and then received his master’s of divinity degree at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn.
Father Neal was ordained a priest in the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity on June 29, 2002, at Corpus Christi Cathedral. He became pastor of St. Monica Parish in Houston on Sept. 1, 2002. While there, he was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent treatment.
In 2005, Father Neal distributed holy Communion with one of his heroes, Pope John Paul II, during a Christmas Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Later, he distributed holy Communion at Yankee Stadium with Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.
During his years of priestly ministry, Father Neal made several trips to Mexico City to help at a school, and he spent time at a Native American reservation in North Dakota, working with children to make rosaries.
After his cancer went into remission, his superiors decided to send him to a less demanding assignment. He became pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in Easton and St. Joseph of the Valley Parish in rural Leavenworth County on Aug. 1, 2007. The two parishes were consolidated last July.
Father Neal was an avid sports fan, especially of the Chicago Cubs and the Iowa Hawkeyes. He often attended local sporting events in communities where he served, encouraging parishioners who were participants.
He also had a gift for youth ministry. He organized a contest with a youth group to name his new Labrador puppy. (The winning name was “Benedict.”)
One of the highlights of his time at St. Lawrence and St. Joseph of the Valley was when he led a youth group to the Steubenville West Youth Conference, held this past July 24-26 at Arizona University.
It was to be his last gift to the parish.
His cancer had returned last January. Soon after he returned from Arizona, he resumed treatment in Chicago. The disease could not be stopped, however. In August, he went to his sister’s and brother-in-law’s home in Eldora, where he received hospice care.
Father Neal was preceded in death by his father, Donald. He is survived by his mother, Loretta, of Eldora; three sisters — Shelly Stull Webb of Cincinnati, Melody Hoy of Eldora, and Tamara Evans, Seattle; and nieces Ariel and Elizabeth Hoy.
A visitation was held on Oct. 7 at Holy Family Parish, St. Gabriel Catholic Church, in rural Reinbeck, Iowa. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Gabriel on Oct. 8, followed by burial at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Grundy Center.
A memorial Mass was celebrated on Oct. 9 at St. Lawrence Church in Easton.