Proclaiming the Good News

Proclaiming the Good News Bishop Alan McGuckian greets the crowd following his episcopal ordination. Photo: Paul Doherty

Ireland’s first Jesuit bishop made a touching speech in which he commemorated his late sister, after he was ordained bishop of the Diocese of Raphoe on Sunday.

Worshippers came in their droves to the ordination of Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ, filling the Cathedral of Saints Eunan and Columba in Letterkenny, Donegal.

Dr McGuckian, whose two brothers are also Jesuits, will now preside over a diocese with a population of 83,000 Catholics, 33 parishes and 71 churches.

In front of a congregation of about 1,000 people he made special mention of his sister, saying “if any of the McGuckians are ever known to be outstanding in holiness, that will have been Paula”.

Paula Haughey, who died in 2013, was a teacher, but Dr McGuckian said her main vocation in life was as a wife and mother of a big family.

He thanked his family for their support many of whom were there, adding: “I’d just like to mention one name, that’s my sister Paula, who is not with us, but was taken from us suddenly by cancer some years ago.”


A man from Antrim, Bishop Alan McGuckian was born in Cloughmills, and is the youngest of six children. He was ordained a priest in 1984 after following his brothers’ footsteps and joining the Jesuits in 1972. During this time, he studied in UCD, Queens University Belfast, the School of Theology in Toronto and the Milltown Institute in Dublin.

He worked as a teacher in Clongowes Wood College for four years, then ran the Jesuit Communications Centre in Dublin and helped set up prominent Catholic websites.

Archbishop Eamon Martin said, in light of Ireland’s preparation for the World Meeting of Families, that he was grateful to Dr McGuckian’s family, his late parents, his families of faith and extended family who he said “have helped nurture and sustain your vocation”.

He called on the new bishop to continue to proclaim “the Good News of Christ whether it is welcome or unwelcome”.

“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, and care for the earth – our common home,” he said.

Archbishop Martin continued saying we need to have conversations about what constitutes a ‘good life’.

“The engagement of people of faith together with all people of good will in such conversations is to be encouraged and welcomed,” he added.

At the beginning of the Mass he mentioned Dr McGuckian’s connection with the Irish language, saying that he hoped the bishop would encourage more “Sunday worship in our native language”.


Dr McGuckian went to a Gaeltacht in Donegal when he was a teenager and developed a strong love for the language, which he speaks very well, answering questions put to him in Irish with ease when quizzed by the Irish-speaking press after the ceremony.

He also served as the chaplain in Belfast for many of the Gaelscoileanna in the Diocese of Down and Connor.

The new bishop will be taking over from Bishop Philip Boyce OCD, who was spoken very highly of by all at the celebration.

The Chief Ordaining Prelate was Archbishop Eamon Martin, who was assisted by Bishop Philip Boyce and Bishop Noel Treanor – Bishop of Down and Connor. Archbishop Terence Prendergast SJ, who travelled all the way from his diocese in Ottawa, Canada, read the Gospel.

Cardinal Séan Brady presided with numerous other bishops and priests concelebrating, including Bishop McGuckian’s two Jesuit brothers,
Fr Bernard McGuckian and Fr Michael McGuckian.