.- A professional soccer player in Massachusetts has retired from the sport to enter a Catholic seminary, saying he is “moving on to something much greater.”
Chase Hilgenbrinck, a defender for the New England Revolution, explained the motives for his retirement:
"After years of discernment, I feel strongly that the Lord has called me to become a priest in the Catholic Church," he said in a press statement released by his team. "Playing professional soccer has been my passion for a long time and I feel blessed to have successfully lived out this dream. My passion now is to do the will of God, which is wanting only what He wants for me. Though I will miss the game of soccer, I know that I am moving on to something much greater."
Hilgenbrinck, 26, was a starting player for the team’s two U.S. Open Cup victories in July and for all six of the reserve team’s games. In the latter, he captained the team twice.
He had signed with the Revolution in March following a four-year career in Chile.
“I grew up as a Catholic. I was always involved in the church, went to Catholic schools,” Hilgenbrinck told the Associated Press. “It was when I got out on my own that my faith really became mine. I really embraced it. I didn't have to go to church any more, I was free to really believe what I wanted to believe.”
"I looked to strengthen my personal relationship with Christ. And when my personal life started to flourish, I couldn't turn my back on that relationship.”
He said he considered delaying his pursuit of the priesthood until after his career ended, but reconsidered.
“Delayed obedience is disobedience,” he said. "We are all called to do something. I feel like my specific call is to the priesthood. So, no, it was not possible to continue with soccer. It's absolutely inevitable."
Hilgenbrinck will attend St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where he was accepted in March. He will have to spend six years studying philosophy and theology before he can be ordained a priest.
Revolution Vice President of Player Personnel Michael Burns commented on Hilgenbrinck’s decision, saying in a team statement, "We understand Chase's decision to retire from soccer and pursue his mission of helping others and we support his desire to make this change in his life."
"We wish Chase the best and thank him for the service and leadership he provided in his brief tenure with us."