Antrim Jesuit, Father Alexander Aloysius (Alan) McGuckian, has been announced as the new prelate of St. Columba’s home diocese after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of the long-standing Bishop of Raphoe, Philip Boyce O.C.D., on the local patron’s feast day on Friday.
Congratulating Father McGuckian on his appointment, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, said: “On the feast of Saint Columba I want to offer my sincere and prayerful congratulations to Father Alan McGuckian SJ whom Pope Francis has appointed as the new Bishop of Raphoe.
“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. I pray that Saint Columba and Saint Eunan will intercede for him as he takes up his new duties as bishop.”
Archbishop Martin paid tribute to the veteran Carmelite, Bishop Boyce, the Downings native, who has served his native bishopric for over twenty years.
“I also want to pay warm tribute to Bishop Boyce. Bishop Philip has been a hugely supportive and dedicated member of the Episcopal Conference since his ordination as Bishop of Raphoe in October 1995.
“His fidelity to his roles at the Bishops’ Conference, in particular to his contributions at the Council for Clergy and the Council for Liturgy, reflected depth of thought, wisdom and selflessness.
“On a personal level I have found Bishop Philip to be a prayerful and caring companion, especially when I was taking up my own episcopal responsibilities.
“I have always sensed his Carmelite charisms of service, contemplation and fraternity. For this generosity I wish to thank him and wish him every blessing in his new role as Bishop Emeritus.”
Father McGuckian was born in 1953, the youngest of six children of the late Brian and Pauline McGuckian, in Cloughmills, Co Antrim.
The new bishop’s 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.
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 he 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. 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).
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.