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Founder of CatholicIreland to be Bishop of Raphoe

By Susan Gately - 09 June, 2017

Bishop Elect of Raphoe, Fr Alan McGuckian, SJ

Pope Francis has named Fr Alan McGuckian SJ as the new Bishop of Raphoe, replacing Bishop Philip Boyce OCD who retired today.

The announcement was made today at 11.00 am Irish time in the Vatican. Fr McGuckian, who founded CatholicIreland.net, will be the first Jesuit bishop in Ireland.

Welcoming the appointment of Fr McGuckian, the Primate of All Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin said that Fr 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”.

Both the Archbishop and the Bishop of Down and Connor Bishop Noel Treanor paid tribute to the outgoing Bishop Philip Boyce, “a hugely supportive and dedicated member of the Episcopal Conference” since 1995.

Irish Jesuit Provincial Fr Leonard Moloney SJ 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. “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.”

A native of Cloughmills, Co. Antrim, the Bishop-elect Alexander Aloysius (Alan) McGuckian SJ, along with two of his three brothers – Bernard and Michael – followed a call to join the Jesuits.

Alan entered the order in 1972 and studied philosophy and theology at Milltown Institute, Dublin and Regis College, Toronto. He was ordained a priest for the Society of Jesus in 1984. As part of his final stage of Jesuit training, he worked for a short time in Shembagnur, India.

Fr McGuckian taught in Clongowes Wood College, Kildare, and in 1992 took up an appointment as Director of the Jesuit Communications Centre. Having completed further studies in communications in Missouri, he returned to Dublin and set up the revolutionary website www.sacredspace.ie in 1999, which allowed people to pray at their computer.

“Fr Alan McGuckian SJ embraced new technology as far back as 1999 when the internet was only three years old,” commented Mr Tony Bolger, CEO of Church Support Group, of which CatholicIreland.net is part.

Shortly after, he founded www.catholicireland.net. “Seeing the immediate and great success of his first venture, Sacred Space, Fr Alan wanted to gift the Irish Church with a portal which would gather all aspects of Catholic Church life in Ireland – online in one location. And so CatholicIreland.net was born,” explained Mr Bolger. Later, together with Mr Bolger, Fr McGuckian set up Church Resources and Church Services TV.

Describing the Jesuit priest as “far seeing” and “tireless in the pursuit of good ideas”, Mr Bolger said his appointment as Bishop of Raphoe would be “good for the whole Church in Ireland, not just the Raphoe Diocese”. He wished him every blessing in his new ministry.

In 2007 Fr McGuckian returned to his native diocese of Down and Connor to work in the Jesuit community in Belfast and as chaplain at the Ulster University, Jordanstown.

In 2011 he was appointed Director of the Down and Connor ‘Living Church’ project, which arose from a diocese-wide ‘Listening Process’ aimed at hearing the hopes and fears of the priests, religious and lay faithful in all 87 parishes.

“I have been deeply impressed by his grounded faith and his pastoral sensitivity,” said Bishop Noel Treanor, paying tribute to his valuable work as director of the project.

“He adopted a truly collaborative style of pastoral ministry, a legacy which has become the hallmark of the entire ‘Living Church’ initiative.” He would be “sadly missed by all for the vision, leadership and guidance he brought to this work,” he added, but would bring “tremendous gifts” as Bishop of Raphoe.

Fr McGuckian’s greatest charism, building upon his Ignatian training and spirituality, was “his wonderful ability to engage others in a process of discernment, employing his tremendous skills in facilitating mediation,” said Bishop Treanor.

The Bishop of Down and Connor 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, “Ár dTeanga Dhúchais” – work that was greatly appreciated and treasured by many.

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