Crowds gather in west Belfast as Filipino deacon becomes the first non-national to be ordained into a diocese in Ireland
THE "immense contribution" the Filipino community has made to society in Northern Ireland has been celebrated at a historic ordination.
Family and friends of Rev Manuelito Muga Milo gathered at St Peter's Cathedral in west Belfast yesterday as he was ordained into the Diocese of Down & Connor.
He is the first non-national to be ordained into a diocese in Ireland.
Born in the Philippines, the 29-year-old came to Northern Ireland in 2007 and commenced his seminary formation at St Malachy's in Belfast, and his philosophical studies through Queen's University.
He then progressed on to theological studies at St Patrick's Pontifical University, Maynooth in 2012.
Having completed an undergraduate degree in theological studies, Fr Milo engaged in ministry in Cork University Hospital before he returned to Belfast last year to take up a period of pastoral experience.
During this time, he worked in numerous parishes, including St Luke' in Twinbrook, Corpus Christi in Belfast, and Kirkinriola in Ballymena.
On Christmas Eve last year, Manuelito was ordained a Deacon in St Vincent de Paul's Parish, Ligoniel.
Yesterday, his family were among those who gathered at St Peter's. Also among those present was Bishop Antonieto Dumagan Cabajog of the diocese of Surigao in the Philippines.
Bishop Noel Treanor said it was a "day of joy and thanksgiving" as he welcomed those who travelled to St Peter's from the Philippines, the US and around Ireland, as well as those watching online.
He told Fr MIlo that from "this day forward your primary mission in life is to evoke and confirm in those in your care a sense of God and of the things of God".
"As a priest and pastor it is now your mission in life, your twenty-four seven job, to discern how you and they respond to God’s call to them as followers of Jesus Christ, as disciples shaping and making the Christian community in time and in society," he said.
"Today this local Church in Down and Connor calls you to fulfil this vocation and mission in full, conscious and unmitigated cooperation with fellow priests, soon-to-be ordained permanent deacons, lay ministers in our parishes, and the countless women and men who volunteer to serve and activate a living Church in parishes and pastoral communities of the diocese".
Bishop Treanor also noted the "immense contribution" the Filipino community had made "to our society".
"In the many fields in which they work, their skills, kindness and human qualities are well known and appreciated," he said.
"Our schools have been greatly enriched culturally by the presence of the children of Filipino families. We pray that your priestly ministry will further enrich the catholicity of this local Church in such fashion that our parishes and pastoral communities may reflect the communion, community and solidarity of all peoples in Christ."
Meanwhile, former Manchester United footballer, Philip Mulryne is expected to be ordained in Dublin next month.
The west Belfast-born sports man, who won 27 caps for Northern Ireland, will be ordained into the Dominican Order.