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Former footballer Philip Mulryne tells of decision to train as a priest

Former professional footballer Philip Mulryne was ordained a priest for the Dominican Order in July. Picture by Philip McShane

FORMER Manchester United footballer Philip Mulryne has told how his desire to become a priest came "from nowhere" and "wouldn't go away" despite attempts to ignore his calling.

Fr Mulryne, who also represented Northern Ireland at international level, was ordained a priest for the Dominican Order in July.

He spoke about his decision as part of an hour-long programme looking at the state of the Catholic Church in Ireland, to be broadcast on UTV on Wednesday night night.

Fr Mulryne, who grew up in Lenadoon in west Belfast, said he became disillusioned with his life as a professional footballer despite playing at the highest level and earning huge sums of money.

Now based in Newbridge, Co Kildare, he said: "Towards the middle to end of my twenties I grew a little bit dissatisfied with the footballer lifestyle, all the stuff around the game.

"At the end of that process I returned home in 2009 and took a year out of the game and in that year I rediscovered my faith.

"From nowhere the desire in me started to grow to become a priest and I knew that wasn't from me as I never my whole life wanted to become a priest. All my life was about was football.

"And so this desire that was growing certainly wouldn't have been something I generated myself. I ignored it for a little while but it wouldn't go away."

Fr Manuelito Muga Milo, who is originally from the Philippines and was the first foreign national to be trained and ordained for a diocese in Ireland, is also interviewed for the programme 'A New Order'.

Now a curate at St Patrick's Church in Donegall Street in Belfast, he said he took time out from the seminary to discern his vocation when he arrived in the city.

"I was still adjusting to Irish Catholicism, the culture and the society. It was such a big change.

"God doesn't send me a text message that says you should become a priest. I was doubting myself - is this what I want to pursue because I want it or is it because God calls me to?"

Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown, who celebrated 40 years as a priest in the summer, meanwhile said he is "at peace" with not being able to marry.

He said: "I would love to have been married, I would have loved to have been a father and a grandfather but it's not my vocation."

The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, also said of celibacy: "For me to remain faithful to my celibate life is at times quite challenging."

A New Order will be shown on UTV at 10.45pm on Wednesday.

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