Ireland’s first Jesuit bishop to helm Raphoe diocese

Ireland’s first Jesuit bishop to helm Raphoe diocese New Bishop of Raphoe Alan McGuckian (centre), with his brothers Fr Michael McGuckian (left), and Fr Bernard McGuckian at his ordination.
Fr Alan McGuckian SJ is to succeed Bishop Philip Boyce

Fr Alan McGuckian SJ is to succeed Bishop Philip Boyce as Bishop of Raphoe, the Vatican has announced. He will be Ireland’s first Jesuit bishop in over 200 years.

Bishop-elect McGuckian was born in Cloughmills, Co. Antrim in 1953, and after studying Irish and Philosophy in Queens University Belfast began formation as a Jesuit in 1972, studying in Dublin and Toronto before his ordination in 1984.

After teaching for four years at Clongowes Wood College, he spent six months in southern India and served in a shanty town in the Philippines’ Quezon City. On returning to Ireland he ran the Jesuit Communication Centre in Dublin, where he was involved in setting up the web sites and, as well as working with Tony Bolger to set up Church Resources and Church Services TV.

Since 2012 he has been based in Belfast, where he served as chaplain to many of the Gaelscoileanna in the Diocese of Down and Connor and to the University of Ulster at Jordanstown and Belfast and translated St Ignatius of Loyola’s autobiography into Irish.


In Belfast, he has headed the Living Church Office, whose goal is to realise the hopes and aspirations of the diocese as expressed in the Living Church Report and the Diocesan Pastoral Plan, working closely with clergy and laity to establish pastoral communities across the diocese and foster a shared sense of responsibility between clergy and laity.

Dr Boyce, whose resignation was formally accepted ‘now for later’ in January 2015, when he reached the mandatory age of 75, was born in 1940 in Downings, Co. Donegal, and was ordained in 1966, after joining the Discalced Carmelites and studying in Dublin.

He received his doctorate in theology in 1977 with a dissertation on the spirituality of Blessed John Henry Newman, and taught for 20 years in Rome’s Pontifical Theological Faculty of the Carmelites.

Ordained bishop in 1995 in Letterkenny’s Cathedral of Saints Eunan and Columba, he took as his motto “In the service of Mother Church” as a promise of his dedication to the people of God in Raphoe and the Church as a whole, and has served on the Irish hierarchy’s Commission for Worship, Pastoral Renewal and Faith Development, Council for Clergy, Council for Doctrine and Council for Liturgy.


Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland, has welcomed today’s announcement, saying, “On the feast of Saint Columba I want to offer my sincere and prayerful congratulations to Fr Alan McGuckian SJ whom Pope Francis has appointed as the new Bishop of Raphoe. 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.  I pray that Saint Columba and Saint Eunan will intercede for him as he takes up his new duties as bishop.”

Dr Martin also paid “warm tribute” to Dr Boyce, describing him as “a hugely supportive and dedicated member of the Episcopal Conference” and praising his dedication, generosity, “depth of thought, wisdom and selflessness”.

Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor, also welcomed the announcement, noting how in his work in the diocese Bishop-elect McGuckian had impressed him with “his grounded faith and his pastoral sensitivity”.

“Undoubtedly, Father Alan brings tremendous gifts to his new appointment as Bishop of Raphoe.  His greatest charism, building upon his Ignatian training and spirituality, is his wonderful ability to engage others in a process of discernment employing his tremendous skills in facilitating mediation,” he said, continuing, “The clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Raphoe, in this appointment, have been graced with a man and a priest of outstanding experience and indeed with the historic appointment of the first Jesuit bishop in Ireland.”