Former Manchester United and Northern Ireland soccer player Philip Mulryne has continued his journey towards the priesthood, making his Solemn Profession to the Dominican Order in Dublin last Sunday, September 11.
Belfast-born Mulryne, 38, may not have exactly come across as a man of God during his days as a player. He dated model Nicola Chapman and was once sent home from a Northern Ireland squad after breaking a curfew to go drinking. However, after retiring from professional soccer when he was 31, he dived into charity work and eventually was, apparently, convinced to enter the priesthood by Noel Treanor, currently the Bishop of Down and Connor.
Originally from St. Oliver’s Parish in Lenadoon, Belfast, Mulryne made his name at Bristol City, where he became a fan favorite. He played in 161 games for the club between 1999 and 2005. Mulryne got his start with the Manchester United Youth team, playing with them between 1992 and 1996. There he crossed paths with the famous “Class of ‘92” Man Utd players that included David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Ryan Giggs.
Despite winning the FA Youth Cup with the club in 1995 and playing midfield for both legs of the win, Mulryne failed to capture the attention of manager Alex Ferguson and made just one appearance for the first team in 1998 before transferring to Bristol.
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After further spells in Cardiff City, Leyton Orient and King’s Lynn, he eventually retired in 2008, making the decision to enroll in the Pontifical Irish College in Rome in 2009. His mother Sally Mulryne confirmed the news, which came a shock to many of his former teammates, stating that her son would begin a two-year philosophy degree in Rome, followed by a four-year theology degree before he is finally ordained a priest.
Mulryne himself agreed not to speak about his pursuit of the priesthood until after he was ordained, but he did speak about his decision to join the Dominicans when he made his first profession and received his habit in 2013, after spending a year as a "novitiate" dedicating himself to prayer, study of Dominican history and daily participation in mass.
Following this, the former footballer progressed to three years of Simple Profession and on Sunday began his Solemn Profession, a lifelong vow to the Dominican Order and the last stage before the priesthood. He is now expected to spend a further year studying theology and pastoral care after which he should become a fully ordained priest.
In the video (below) in which Mulryne makes his Simple Profession, he explains his reasons for joining the order: “This, for me, is one of the main reasons that attracted me to the religious life, to give oneself completely to God through the profession of the evangelical councils, to take Him as our example and, despite our weaknesses and our defects, trust in Him that He will transform us by His grace and thus being transformed, to communicate the joy in knowing Him to everyone we meet.
“This to me is the ideal of the Dominican life and one of the major reasons that attracted me to the order.”
Despite initial surprise at his former Norwich teammate’s choice after retirement, fellow soccer player Paul McVeigh told The Catholic Herald that Mulryne seemed very content and had not taken the decision lightly.
“To my amazement, and most likely to the rest of the footballing fraternity’s, Phil decided to train to become a Catholic priest,” he said.
“I was still in contact with him and knew that he had turned his life around and was doing a lot of charitable work and helping the homeless on a weekly basis. Still, it was a complete shock that he felt this was his calling.
“I know for a fact that this is not something he took lightly as the training to be ordained as a Catholic priest consists of a two-year philosophy degree, followed by a four-year theology degree and only after that will he finally be qualified as a priest.
“When I arrived in Rome, I was met by a very contented-looking Phil who took me back to the Irish college where he was to be based for the next four years.”
H/T: Irish Independent