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Day of wonder in Letterkenny as Raphoe gets new bishop

By Cian Molloy - 07 August, 2017



Fr Alan McGuckian shortly before his episcopal ordination as Bishop of Raphoe

The Cathedral of Ss Eunan and Columba in Letterkenny was packed yesterday (Sunday 6 August) for the episcopal ordination of Ireland’s first Jesuit bishop, Alan McGuckian, who is now the head of the Raphoe Diocese.

Among the brother bishops and priests concelebrating the Mass were Bishop Alan’s two real life flesh-and-blood brothers, Frs Bernard and Michael McGuckian. In the congregation were representatives from other Christian churches and from civic life, including the President’s aide-de-camp.

Yesterday was the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, and in his homily the Primate of All-Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, quoted the words of St Peter, who said on the mountain of the Transfiguration, “It is wonderful for us to here”.

Indeed, Archbishop Martin said it was wonderful to be present at an event that seldom comes around in the life of a diocese, the consecration of a new bishop.

“Today’s ceremony links us back to the time of Saint Peter and the apostles when they were filled with the Holy Spirit and sent out by the Lord Jesus to make disciples of all the nations. Since then, from generation to generation, Our Lord’s ‘great commission’ has been passed down by the laying on of hands in an unbroken line of succession. It is humbling for me, Eamon Columba, a native of Doire Cholmcille, and in the name of Saint Patrick of Armagh, to continue the line of Episcopal succession in Raphoe by joining with my brother bishops in the laying on of hands and prayer of consecration.”

With the Irish Church preparing to host the World Meeting of the Families in August next year, Archbishop Martin said to Bishop McGuckian: “My dear brother Alan, 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.”

Bishop McGuckian’s Raphoe diocese includes several Gaeltacht parishes, where Sunday Mass is usually celebrated in the Irish language. Archbishop Martin noted that the Jesuit priest, who is a founder of the catholicireland.net website, has been a regular visitor to the Rann na Feirste Gaeltacht over the years and that no doubt the new Bishop of Raphoe would continue the work of his predecessor Bishop Columba Boyce in preparing the new Irish language translation of the Missal, an Leabhar Aifrinn Rómhánach, which is due to be published later this year.

Addressing his new brother bishop directly in his homily, Archbishop Martin said: “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.

“Father Alan, as bishops we are called upon to love the poor and infirm, strangers and the homeless. Love all those whom God will place in your care, especially the priests and all who share with you the ministry of Christ. I am confident that you will encourage the lay faithful, religious and priests of the diocese to work closely with you. Your significant contribution to the ‘Living Church’ project in Down and Connor diocese has clearly demonstrated that you can listen willingly and bring out the best in others.

“My brother Alan, continue to proclaim the Good News of Christ whether it is welcome or unwelcome; do not be afraid to correct error with unfailing patience and sound teaching. Remember we seek to present in public discourse ‘a coherent ethic of life’ encompassing our precious teaching about the sacredness of all human life and the dignity of the person, about the centrality of the family, about solidarity and the need for a fair distribution of goods in the world.

“We stand for universal truths and values that are drawn from our personal encounter with the joy of God’s love, together with an understanding of the human person that is rooted in the natural law and which strives for the common good. Ultimately everything we say is founded on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord.”

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