You might have heard of Phil Mulryne, a Manchester United footballer who's shared the field with David Beckham and brought fame to Ireland with 27 caps – international appearances – in his athletic career.
But now, Mulryne is setting aside his jersey to pursue the vocation of a Catholic Dominican priest.
“This for me was one of the major reasons that attracted me to the religious life,” Mulryne said in a video interview posted by the Daily Mail.
“To give oneself completely to God through the profession of the evangelical councils, to take him as our example and despite our weakness and our defects, trust in Him that he will transform us by his grace, and thus being transformed, communicate the joy in knowing him to everyone we meet – this for me is the ideal of Dominican life and one of the major reasons of what attracted me to the order.”
Mulryne, a 38-year old Irishman, began his career in football as a kid in 1994 when he attended the Manchester United youth academy, and eventually joined the Norwich league in 1999.
His teammates were among the many of his surprised acquaintances to find out that he gave up his global fame and £500,000 in career earnings to pursue the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as a Catholic priest.
“It was a complete shock that he felt this was his calling,” fellow footballer Paul McVeigh said, according to the Daily News.
After a series of major injuries at the end of his career in 2008, Mulryne was faced with the future: how would he spend his post-footballing days?
According to McVeigh, Mulryne began turning “his life around and was doing a lot of charitable work and helping the homeless on a weekly basis.” The Catholic Herald reported that Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor became an influential figure during Mulryne’s conversion, eventually inviting him to enter the seminary.
“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,” McVeigh said.
In 2009, the Irish native entered the Irish Pontifical College in Rome, where he has been pursuing the priesthood through studies in philosophy and theology.
This fall, on Oct. 30, he was ordained a deacon in Belfast by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, and is set for priestly ordination in 2017.
This article was originally published on EWTN News Nov. 3, 2016.