By Matthew Gambino
Director & General Manager

Kevin Mulligan has played countless golf courses. Always sure of his ability to strike the ball well or choose the right club. Never afraid of sand bunkers or fairway roughs in which the ball might lie. Confident that on a course, he’s never alone.

But it was Good Friday evening of 2008, and he was playing an unfamiliar course. This wasn’t a game at all. Golf was merely an analogy for what was happening in his life.

For almost 30 years he had been a sports writer covering among other things the Philadelphia Eagles from 1990 to ’96 and major golf tournaments such as the Master’s for the Philadelphia Daily News and other newspapers. At the end of 2007 Mulligan transitioned from that career and had begun working for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for Communications. He was on the other side of journalism helping the media tell the good news of the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese. {{more}}

Transitioning to a new career after so many years is never easy. Mulligan found himself asking big questions as he walked to his car on that cold March night following the Way of the Cross outdoor devotion at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary: “Am I worthy to do this for the Church? What am I doing here?”

From behind, a voice called. It was Auxiliary Bishop Robert Maginnis, asking him to wait. The two began to walk together. The bishop said he’d heard good things about Mulligan since he began his position a few months before. He listened to Mulligan’s deep questions, gently told him to give it time and let the Holy Spirit guide him.

Neither men knew at the time they had begun a friendship that has remained close. Neither knew that it also was the genesis of a religious vocation for Mulligan. Was it a call to an even greater service than he had been rendering as a high school golf coach, member of the Knights of Columbus and active parishioner at Visitation B.V.M. Parish in Trooper? Should he be a permanent deacon, Mulligan wondered, or something else?

In May 2009 he discussed it with a close priest friend, Msgr. Ralph Chieffo, pastor of St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Media. Mulligan’s Catholic spirituality had been growing, and he had been discerning a call in his prayer life.

“Am I too old to be a deacon?” he asked the priest. “I learned I was not, but I didn’t act on it. I wanted to learn more,” Mulligan said. “The more I prayed about it in perpetual adoration (of the Blessed Sacrament) I came to really believe that God wanted me to be a priest, not a deacon.”

Thus began the application process with its evaluations, psychological reviews and interviews with archdiocesan officials. It culminated two weeks ago on July 22 when Mulligan received formal approval from Cardinal Justin Rigali to stand, as it were, on the first tee of a new course.

Mulligan is about to enter the seminary and begin studies toward ordination as a priest.

At age 55, he won’t be living in formation with young men at St. Charles Seminary, many of whom are recent graduates of high school or college. They’re close in age to the Lansdale Catholic High School boys Mulligan coached on the golf team.

Instead, he’ll begin studies for the Philadelphia Archdiocese this September at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Mass. It is geared toward men age 35-60 studying for the priesthood from dioceses throughout the United States.

The choice of the seminary resulted from conversations with priest friends and advisers. Along with love for his parents Joe and Betty, who he calls “living saints,” and his five sisters, one brother, their spouses and children, it’s the example of priests that inspires Mulligan.

For all the priests he’s known, “there isn’t one who’s not happy,” he said. “For all they have been through, their periodic frustrations, financial difficulties in parishes and the challenges in their own lives, there isn’t one who would change a thing.”

For his part Mulligan acknowledges the looming challenge of entering a classroom again for the first time since he graduated from Slippery Rock State College in 1977, and before that, Bishop Kenrick High in Norristown in 1973.

As for living in a dorm room at the seminary, “It’s a challenge in that I’ve lived my whole life as a single man,” he said.

But he has no fear of the future and looks forward, God willing, to five years of seminary formation and its completion with priestly ordination.

“With God holding my hand, I’m going to be very happy as a priest,” he said.

At the heart of Mulligan’s journey is spending time with the Lord in prayer, especially adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the rosary.

“There is no substitute for a Holy Hour with the Lord,” he said. “If more people would experience that they’d find how valuable a personal encounter with the Lord is. This is where it all happened for me.”