Dear friends. This weekend, we welcome to St Aidan’s Fr Philip Mulryne who is a Dominican priest, a native of Belfast and currently based as a teacher and chaplain at Dominican College Secondary school in Newbridge, Co. Kildare. Philip will speak at all the weekend Masses and tell his story. And what a remarkable story he has to tell.
His story is of his life as a young talented footballer who signed a professional contract with Manchester United at 16. His team mates at the time included Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Roy Keane. Philip stayed at Manchester United until 1999 when he signed for Norwich City where he became club captain and became a first team regular. During his professional career he also played for Northern Ireland and earned 28 caps. Along this amazing journey of success, fame and wealth, Philip lost the practise of his faith. But after a while he found that material things did not satisfy what his heart began to long for. He took some time out of football, began to reflect, read and pray. Slowly, a new peace returned to his heart as he began to reconnect with the faith of his childhood.
During this time of greater commitment to prayer, a crazy idea began to arise in his mind and heart – to be a priest and to serve God in this way. The idea became strong and consuming until eventually he was guided and directed to taking his first steps towards seminary where he entered in 2009. He spent two years in seminary in Belfast, then one year in Rome before joining the Dominican order in 2012. He was finally ordained priest in July 2017 before being appointed to Newbridge. Part of Fr Philip’s ministry is to speak to parishes and schools about his journey and his faith in God that led him back to the Church and to the priesthood.
Philip’s message to his listeners is that the God who was powerfully at work in his life is the same God who is active and present in mine and yours. Philip’s story is unique but so is ours. God had a special plan for Philip but also has a special plan for our lives too. God’s love is powerful and can lead us to places and possibilities we can’t yet see or imagine. All we need do is to trust him and let him lead us along the way. St Paul tells us in the second reading this Sunday about the variety of gifts that are given to us by God for the service of others and for his glory. Philip’s gifts were of being a footballer, and now are of speaking, preaching and giving witness to God’s power and love. In his talks he invites us to discover our own gifts from God and to use them to serve others in his name.
Fr Philip also witnesses to something at the heart of the Gospel for this Sunday which is the miracle of the wedding feast at Cana. Through the intercession of Jesus, there is new wine. So too in our lives and in the world. When we allow God to touch our lives, all is made new. In the words of Pope Francis: ‘Jesus can break through the dull categories with which we would enclose him and he constantly amazes us by his divine creativity. Whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world’ (The Joy of the Gospel, 11).
Here is the power of God to make all things new. It made Fr Philip into a new person, a new Christian and a new priest. It can also renew your life too. Come along to hear Fr Philip’s story at the Cathedral this weekend and to meet a man whose life is a witness to God’s power to make all things new.