Father Alan McGuckian SJ was ordained Bishop of Raphoe in the Cathedral of Saints Eunan and Columba on Sunday 6 August. Family and friends of Bishop McGuckian joined the concelebrating bishops and priests in the packed cathedral for the ceremony. The Chief Ordaining Prelate was Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, who was assisted by Bishop Philip Boyce OCD, Bishop Emeritus of Raphoe and Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor. The Apostolic Mandate from His Holiness Pope Francis was read by Father Michael McKeever, Chancellor of the Diocese of Raphoe. The sermon for the ordination ceremony was preached by Archbishop Terence Prendergast SJ, Archbishop of Ottawa.
In his homily Archbishop Martin said, ‘My brothers and sisters, after listening to the Apostolic Letter our instinctive response is: Thanks be to God! Thanks be to God for calling a new shepherd to lead His flock here in the diocese of Raphoe. Thanks be to God for Father Alan’s generosity in accepting this new challenge and for Bishop Philip’s devoted service as shepherd over many years. Thanks be to God for the faith that has brought all of us to this special moment.’
He continued, ‘My dear brother Alan, as Ireland prepares to host the World Meeting of the Families this time next year, I am grateful to your family, your late parents, Brian and Pauline, and to the various families of faith which have helped to nurture and sustain your vocation – your extended family; your brothers in the Society of Jesus; the people, religious and priests of the diocese of Down and Connor. Together this family of families has helped you grow in the knowledge and love of God. I trust you will continue to be uplifted, protected and supported – as I have – by the prayers of your people and all those who love you.
‘Remember that you are chosen by the Lord to serve. The title of bishop is not one of honour, but one of humble service. Today we reflect on the words of our Heavenly Father at the moment of the Transfiguration – words which echoed His message at our Lord’s baptism: “This is my Son, the Beloved – Listen to him”.’
He went on to say, ‘Father Alan, at this life-changing moment for you, and in these challenging, but exciting times to serve as a bishop, I encourage you to be always attentive to the voice of the Lord who is with us to the end of time. Listen to Him. By discerning in prayer the signs of these times, find new ways to proclaim the Joy of His Gospel. You have already shown, in your ministry with young people as a teacher and university chaplain, and through your creative gifts of communication, that you can engage with the challenges and questions of today, and do so with confidence, conviction and with humility.
‘No doubt your familiarity with the thinking and spirituality of Saint Ignatius will help you live out, as a bishop, Pope Francis’ call to discernment and for accompaniment of the real life situations of your people. As the Holy Father himself puts it: “With the Merciful Heart of Jesus, the Church must draw near and guide the weakest of her members who are experiencing a wounded or lost love, by restoring confidence and hope, just as the beacon light of a port… illuminates those who have lost their way or find themselves in the midst of a storm”.’
Archbishop Martin concluded his homily saying, ‘Finally, my brother Alan, I encourage you to find strength in the witness of Saint Columba and Saint Eunan, from the love and protection of Mary, our Blessed Mother, and from your daily celebration and adoration of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist.
‘If you find yourself isolated and under pressure, listen to him! Listen for the voice of God’s Beloved Son speaking in your heart and pray, as tradition tells us Saint Columba did: “Alone with none but thee, my God, I journey on my way, what need I fear when thou art near O King of night and day! More safe am I within thy hand than if a host did round me stand”.
‘A Choilm agus a Adhamhnáin guighigí ar ár son (Saint Columba, Saint Eunan, pray for us). Amen.’
Concelebrating the Mass were more than a dozen bishops from across Ireland including Archbishop Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam; Bishop Leo O’Reilly of Kilmore; Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore and Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry. The bishops were joined by Father Leonard Moloney SJ, Provincial of the Society of Jesus in Ireland, and Bishop McGuckian’s two brothers, both Jesuit priests, Fathers Brendan and Michael McGuckian, as well as priests and religious clergy both from Raphoe and elsewhere.
His Holiness Pope Francis appointed Father Alan McGuckian SJ as Bishop of Raphoe on 9 June 2017. Bishop McGuckian was born in 1953, the youngest of six children of the late Brian and Pauline. Two of his brothers, Fathers Bernard and Michael are also Jesuit priests. His sister Mary Dynan lives in Newry and his brother John B McGuckian lives in Cloughmills. His other sister, Paula Haughey died in 2013.
A love for the Irish language brought him to Rann na Feirste for the first time in 1968 and he has been a regular visitor to the Donegal Gaeltacht ever since.
In October 1972 he joined the Jesuit novitiate in Clontarf in Dublin. Bishop McGuckian studied languages and holds an MA in Irish Translation from QUB. After ordination to the priesthood in 1984, Father McGuckian worked in secondary education for four years in Clongowes Wood College SJ.
In the 1990s Bishop McGuckian ran the Jesuit Communication Centre in Dublin. At the same time his commitment to the Irish language led him to serve for over ten years as editor of both An Timire and Foilseacháin Ábhair Spioradálta.
In recent years Bishop McGuckian has served as chaplain to many of the Gaelscoileanna in the Diocese of Down & Connor, and has worked closely with the diocesan ‘Living Church’ project and in the establishment of Pastoral Communities all across the diocese.
The full text of Archbishop Eamon Martin’s homily can be found on www.catholicbishops.ie.
Image: Father Michael McGuckian SJ, Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ and Father Bernard McGuckian SJ. Photo: Liam McArdle. More photographs from the Ordination Mass can be found here.