The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has appointed Bishop Alan McGuckian, Bishop of Raphoe, as Bishop of Down and Connor.
Statement by Bishop Alan McGuckian on his Appointment by
His Holiness Pope Francis as Bishop of Down and Connor
2nd February 2024
Feast of the Presentation 2024
St Peter’s Cathedral
It is amazing to me that I am here in Belfast this morning in these circumstances. When I left Queens University in 1972 to join the Jesuits, I felt certain that I would never have the opportunity to live here again. Then, God’s providence intervened. My superiors sent me to live in Belfast from 2005 to 2017. I want to acknowledge my predecessor, Archbishop Noel Treanor. It was he who invited me to head up the Living Church office and work at the heart of the Diocese of Down and Connor. He placed great trust in me and my team of Paula McKeown and Jim Deeds. Had Bishop Noel not chosen me for that work at that time I would almost certainly not be here today.
It is good to be here today, and I thank Bishop McKeown who has been a friend since we were students together in Garron Tower. As a brother bishop he has been a good neighbour and great example and encouragement to me. Now, as I leapfrog across the Derry Diocese from west to east I know I can continue to rely on his friendship and support.
My roots are entirely in the Diocese of Down and Connor. Fr Gerry Park baptized me and Fr Vincent McKinley gave me my first Holy Communion in Cloughmills. Bishop Philbin confirmed me in Dunloy. This is where I come from and I am humbled and privileged that, after all my wanderings, the bishop of Rome has chosen to send me home.
I would not be telling the whole truth if I did not say that it will be a terrible wrench for me to leave the priests and people of Raphoe. I have been very privileged to serve among many people deeply committed to the faith; they show it in their daily lives, in the ways they look after one another in community and it was a bittersweet source of pride to me that Donegal uniquely had a pro-life majority in the abortion referendum some years ago. Donegal people took me into their hearts and have inspired me. Many of them love me deeply and I love them and I will miss them greatly.
People will now wonder what will I be like as the Bishop of Down and Connor. First and foremost, I am a priest. As I reconnect with the priests of this diocese, many of whom I know very well I have a great desire that all of us as priests would ‘Renew our hearts’. Sometimes over recent years I have signed off letters to certain people in Irish; i gCroí Íosa. In the Heart of Jesus.
I find myself wanting to emphasize again the love of the Heart of Jesus; it was central in our home as I was growing up and for centuries Jesuits have been charged with promoting confidence in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The power of that great image is coming back to me, not simply as a pious phrase, but an expression of my desire that both I and my brother priests would be close to Christ and his people. In the heart of Jesus; I gCroí Íosa.
Secondly, I am a Jesuit. And on this feast of the presentation when we celebrate religious life, I call to mind my own vows and in particular the vow of poverty. That vow unites us with Christ who is poor and also with his people. There is much poverty in our affluent society – it is my intention to seek to be close to the poor. That may be the poor in heart, lonely, isolated – I want us to be a church that builds communities. There are other poverties too – the workers seeking a just wage, young people without jobs or opportunities and families trying their best to make ends meet. We need to be a church that is in solidarity with the poor and seeking justice for the poor.
Thirdly, I want to encourage us as a church in Down and Connor to make an impact on the world around us. Our love of Christ should radiate from us – make others curious and want to share in our joy. We must share the joy of the Gospel. I want us, priests, deacons, people and Bishop together make the love of Christ known to all. One very important way to do that will be to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the other Christian denominations. Today I send my very best wishes to the other Church leaders in this part of the country.
It is a source of encouragement to all of us that there is movement towards the re-establishment of the institutions of government here in Northern Ireland. Their absence in recent months has been a serious democratic deficit. I encourage everyone to do all in their power to ensure that we have ongoing and stable government here that works hard for the good of everyone and especially the most vulnerable. In addition, we Christians need to pray earnestly for our politicians. It is the grace of God in answer to people’s prayers that has led us out of the horror of past violence to where we are today.
I am one of the two Irish bishops who are part of the Synod on Synodality. My experience in Rome in October past has strengthened my conviction that our Church will be all the stronger for our working ever more closely together, clergy and lay people together taking responsibility for the Church’s mission. I will be eager to learn more about all the good work that is going on in the diocese. I will need some time to say farewell to my friends in Raphoe and then it is important for me to make a good retreat before taking up office here. I certainly intend to be here to celebrate the Mass of Chrism here in the Cathedral.
Over the past few years, I used occasionally drop in to Nazareth Lodge Care Village to see Bishop Paddy Walsh and Bishop Tony Farquhar. While Bishop Walsh declined physically it was a delight to see how he remained bright, warm and witty and very attentive to the needs of the other residents. On this day I want to pay special tribute to my great friend Bishop Tony Farquhar. I went into his Latin class in September of 1967. He knew that we were a good class but most of us were lazy, especially me. To try and stir us up he had to pretend that he was angry some of the time which, with his big soft heart, required a certain amount of histrionics. He was a great motivator and got the best he possibly could out of us. Any success I have had myself over the years in teaching adolescents was modelled almost entirely on Tony. I am sure the two of them will be praying for me today as I do for them.
As I take up office as the first teacher of the faith in this diocese, I am deeply aware of my need to be faithful and to love the faith. The first teachers in the faith that I had, who shared the faith with me and taught me to love it, were not bishops or priests, but lay people. I remember particularly my father and mother, Brian and Pauline McGuckian and my aunt, Mary Jo McKenna who was also my primary school teacher. They along with my sisters Mary and Paula, who were also powerful witnesses to faith in Christ, have gone to God. I am conscious of relying on their prayers today. On this side of the great divide I have always looked up to my big brothers, Frs Barney and Michael and John B who, together with his wife Carmel are a rock of support for me.
As I said at the beginning, the journey on which I set out in life was never going to end up here, with me as Bishop of Down and Connor. I could never have expected it; I certainly did not seek it. I have to assume that it is the will of God for me and for you. It is important then that, in spite of all my weaknesses, I do it as best I can. If I am to do well as Bishop of Down and Connor I will require the generous support of priests and people, religious and lay faithful all pulling together. When I take up office I will require time to get up to speed, to discern with you what the Lord is calling us to. When we have done that I will want us to get down to work. In the meantime, I ask for your prayers for me. I will be praying every day for you.
Oh most Sacred Heart of Jesus I place all my trust in you.
WEEKLY OFFERTORY PROMISE The collection amounted to £1897.00 Thank you for your generous financial support. You can make your envelope contribution via the donate button on the Parish website home page also at www.stagnesbelfast.com
THE LEGION OF MARY have a small statue of Our Lady of Fatima, if you like to have it in you home and to say the rosary, please contact Pat 07946917354.
ASH WEDNESDAY 14th February. Ashes will given out at the 10am and 7pm. Trocaire boxes will be available from Ash Wednesday Perhaps you could take one for a friend or neighbour too.
CONFIRMATION will be celebrated on Wednesday 28th February at 1.30pm. Refreshments afterwards in Holy Child PS.
PROPOSED INITIATIVES as we come to end of our novena and we seek to build our Parish Community we would love to hear from anyone regarding any activities that they would like to be involved in or any suggestions they may have. Yellow Forms are now available at the Church entrances for you to take home and consider. Thank you
WITH THANKS We would like to thank Fr Laurence Gallagher and Fr Derek Meskell C.Ss.R for their wonderful preaching throughout the Novena. And to thank all those in our parish who contributed to making our Parish Novena such a great success each year.
Sat 10 (6.30pm): Mary & Harry Bradley, Anne Maguire- Bradley, John Mc Varnock, Sean Connolly
Sun 11 (9.30am): Anne Carron
Sun 11(12.30pm): Alice (Dolly) Prenter, William Mc Karry, Murphy, Delaney & Purcell Family, Bob Keenan
Mon 12(10am): Special Intention
Tue 13(10am) : NO MASS
Wed 14 (10am): Patrick Herald
Thurs 15(10am): Priest’s intention
Fri 16(10am): Priest’s intention
Sat 17(1pm): Priest’s intention
NB: In the event of a funeral, the assigned intention will be offered privately by the priest at his first available mass.
Pope Francis appoints new Bishop of Down and Connor The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has appointed Bishop Alan McGuckian, Bishop of Raphoe, as Bishop of Down and Connor. Bishop Alan is no stranger to Down and Connor, a native son of the Diocese, he was a member of the Belfast Jesuit community for many years and undertook a number of ministries, most significantly Director of Living Church. I am delighted, on behalf of the clergy, religious and people of the Diocese, to welcome him home. I ask God to bless him and the Diocese as he prepares to take up this ministry in the weeks ahead and ask you to keep him in your prayers. Bishop Donal Mc Keown
We also would like to thank Bishop Donal McKeown who has acted as our Apostolic Administrator for over a year for his generous pastoral leadership. A copy of a letter from Bishop Alan is available from the Church and can be accessed from our website or via Facebook.
Accord (NI) – Let us help you support your Marriage & Relationship. If you feel your marriage or relationship is in crisis or need a little guidance and feel that you both could benefit from Marriage & Relationship Counselling, either face to face or online, contact your local Centre. Every year we help thousands of couples rebuild and sustain healthy relationships.Call us on 02890 233002 for all N. Ireland centres:N. Ireland Regional Office, Armagh, Ballymena, Belfast, Derry, Enniskillen, Maghera, Newry & Omagh Email:
firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.accordni.com.
CARETAKER/SACRISTAN HANNAHSTOWN PARISH An opportunity has arisen for a Caretaker/Sacristan within Hannahstown Parish, Hannahstown Hill, Belfast, BT17 0LT. Full details relating to the vacancy can be found on the Diocesan website at: http://www.downandconnor.org clicking on the tab: JOB VACANCIES and on the Community NI website, where terms and conditions relating to the role can also be accessed by way of a Role Profile and Employment Application form. Application packs can also be obtained from Hannahstown Parish Office. We welcome applications from anyone who feels they meet the criteria and are interested in playing an active part in the Parish. Closing date for applications will be 12.00 noon on Thursday 22nd February 2024.
Mass for Temperance Sunday & World Day of Prayer for the Sick will be broadcast today Sunday 11 February 2024 at 11am on RTÉ TV & Radio.
LENTEN PLEDGE Many people choose to abstain from alcohol during the season of Lent. You can do likewise. Please consider taking the short-term Pioneer Lenten pledge and say the prayer daily. “I promise in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary to abstain from all alcoholic drink during Lent.”
ST GENEVIEVE’S SPRING CONCERT Tuesday 5th March 2024. School Assembly Hall 7pm. Tickets available from School Reception.
Down & Connor Pilgrimage to Lourdes 2024: 10 – 15th/17th July. 5 & 7 Night options available. Please visit www.downandconnor.org/lourdes for more information or call the Pilgrimage Office on (028) 9077 0162 or email email@example.com Youth Team (10-17th July): applications now open.