Wednesday 16 August 2017

First Jesuit priest ever to lead diocese

Fr Alan McGuckian. Picture: Brian McDaid
Fr Alan McGuckian. Picture: Brian McDaid

Sarah MacDonald

Pope Francis made ecclesiastical history when he appointed Fr Alan McGuckian as the new Bishop of Raphoe, the first Jesuit to ever lead an Irish diocese.

Fr McGuckian, a native of Cloughmills, Co Antrim, replaces 77-year-old Bishop Philip Boyce.

The 64-year-old has two older brothers who are also Jesuit priests - Fr Barney McGuckian of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association, and Fr Michael McGuckian.

Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh paid tribute to his "rich experiences and gifts" in education and communications as well as in pastoral planning and development with the Diocese of Down and Connor.

Fr McGuckian co-founded the Sacred Space prayer website and the online faith resource www.catholicireland.net.

He studied Irish and Philosophy at Queen's University before joining the Jesuits and is a fluent Irish speaker. He also has degrees in Spanish, Latin and theology.

The bishop-elect taught in the prestigious private boarding school, Clongowes Wood College, Kildare, for six years and also spent time on the missions in Shembaganur, India.

Following media training in St Luke's, Missouri, he acted as director of the Jesuit Communications Centre in Dublin.

More recently, he has been based in Belfast, acting as chaplain to some Gaelscoileanna, while editing 'An Timire', the Irish language version of 'The Sacred Heart Messenger', as well as spearheading pastoral renewal through 'The Living Church' office in the diocese of Down and Connor.

He has worked with the former police ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Nuala O'Loan, in setting up consultation groups in some dioceses.

His appointment is perceived as the first in recent years to reach out to Irish Catholicism's middle ground.

Irish Independent

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