Pope Francis appoints Fr Alan McGuckian as Ireland’s first Jesuit bishop

9 Jun, 2017 | News

Pope Francis has appointed Father Alan McGuckian SJ as the new Bishop of Raphoe, replacing Bishop Philip Boyce OCD who retired today. The announcement was made today at 11.00am Irish time in the Vatican. Father McGuckian will be the first Jesuit bishop in Ireland.

Welcoming the appointment of Fr McGuckian, the Primate of All Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin said that Father McGuckian’s background in education and communications, as well as his recent immersion in pastoral planning and development with the Diocese of Down and Connor, indicate just some of the rich experiences and gifts that he will bring to his new ministry.

Archbishop Eamon also paid tribute to the outgoing Bishop Philip Boyce as a hugely supportive and dedicated member of the Irish Episcopal Conference since 1995.

Father Leonard Moloney SJ, Provincial of the Irish Jesuits said the prayers and warm wishes of the Jesuit community were with Fr Alan who brought a spirit of dynamic service and generous commitment to all his previous work. Father Moloney said, “I have no doubt he will now bring these same gifts to his new office in pastoral care of the priests and people of the Diocese of Raphoe.”

Father Alan McGuckian was born in 1953, the youngest of six children of the late Brian and Pauline McGuckian in Cloughmills, Co Antrim.  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. Schooling in Cloughmills and in Saint MacNissi’s College, Garron Tower was followed by a year of First Arts in Queen’s University, Belfast, where he studied Irish and Scholastic Philosophy. 

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. Father McGuckian has studied languages and has a BA in Latin and Spanish from UCD and an MA in Irish Translation from QUB.  His training for the priesthood involved Philosophy in the Milltown Institute in Dublin and Theology in the Toronto School of Theology (M.Div and STL). 

After ordination to the priesthood in 1984, Father McGuckian worked in secondary education for four years in Clongowes Wood College SJ. After that came a six month period of spiritual renewal in southern India and an experience of serving in a shanty town in Quezon City in the Philippines.

In the 1990s Father McGuckian ran the Jesuit Communication Centre in Dublin.  During this period he was involved in setting up the web sites www.sacredspace.ie and www.catholicireland.net.  Along with Mr Tony Bolger he set up Church Resources and Church Services TV.   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.  Later, when already living in Belfast, he translated the autobiography of Saint Ignatius Loyola from the Spanish original into the Irish language under the title Scéal an Oilithrigh (Foilseacháin Ábhair Spioradálta). 

In 2011 he collaborated with Philip Orr in writing the drama 1912; one hundred years on, marking the centenary of the fateful year that saw the Home Rule Bill accepted by the House of Commons and the signing of the Ulster Covenant.

In Belfast, Father McGuckian has served as chaplain to many of the Gaelscoileanna in the Diocese of Down and Connor and was, for a few years, Chaplain in the University of Ulster at Jordanstown and Belfast.

For the last six years Father McGuckian has worked closely with the Diocese of Down and Connor in the ‘Living Church’ project.  This began in 2011 with a Listening Process which aimed to hear the hopes and fears of the priests, religious and the lay faithful in all 87 parishes.  This process led to the publication of a document known as the Living Church Report in 2012.  On foot of this report Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor, asked Father McGuckian to set up and lead the Living Church Office whose goal has been to make concrete the hopes and aspirations expressed first of all in the Living Church Report and then in the Diocesan Pastoral Plan which was commissioned by Bishop Treanor.

In recent years Father McGuckian and his team have worked closely with clergy and laity in the establishment of Pastoral Communities all across the Diocese of Down and Connor.  In the Pastoral Communities parishes will work to co-operate more closely together pooling energies and resources to support each other into the future.  A key element of this work has been the rolling out of ‘Facilitative and Discerning Leadership’ training which aims to foster a culture of co-responsibility for the mission of the Church between clergy and laity.


Commenting in his appointment, Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor said, “I have been deeply impressed by his grounded faith and his pastoral sensitivity.” Bishop Treanor also paid tribute to Fr McGuckian’s ecumenical work in Belfast over many years and his work with the pastoral care for the faithful who celebrate the sacraments in the Irish language, work that was greatly appreciated and treasured by many.




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