John Baptist Bullaker was born in Chichester, England. When he was eighteen, he resolved to become a missionary priest. All Catholic institutions in England at this point having been suppressed, he went to France and studied at the Jesuit College at St. Omer. The next year, he entered the Franciscans.
After his ordination in 1628, he prepared to return to England, a most dangerous mission territory. Any priest found on English soil was subject to arrest; the same was true for those who harbored him. In fact, Bullaker was arrested immediately upon his landing, though several months in jail he was released for lack of evidence. Thus, he was able to carry on a clandestine ministry for fourteen years, mostly among the gentry. Holing up in hidden cupboards, traveling in disguise, he was passed from house to house, saying Mass, hearing confessions, comforting the faithful, attending the sick and dying, while managing to evade the authorities and their watchful spies. Finally, on September 11, 1642, he was betrayed by a maid in a house where he was saying Mass, and arrested.
Asked by the sheriff his purpose in returning to England, he answered, “to bring back my country to the fold of Christ from which it was gone astray.” Tried and convicted for treason, he was sentenced to death. On October 12, he was hanged in Tyburn before a large crowd. While still alive, he was disemboweled, then quartered, his head was displayed on London Bridge.
Along with other English martyrs, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1989.