Leaving one home for another

February 27, 2024 in Featured News, News

A large congregation turned out to bid farewell to Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ at a Mass of Thanksgiving in St Eunan’s Cathedral » Letterkenny at 7 pm on Monday 26 February 2024. Almost seven years ago he was ordained bishop there and the people of Donegal were invited to come and say a final goodbye to him as he leaves to take up his appointment as Bishop of Down and Connor, the second biggest diocese in Ireland.

A statement issued from St. Eunan’s Cathedral, Letterkenny noted that the people of Donegal were conflicted about their Bishop’s new appointment. ” If on the one hand we are honoured that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, should have recognised in our Bishop qualities that made him suitable to lead the second largest diocese in Ireland – Down and Connor, we are also sincerely sorry to lose someone whom the community has taken to itself in many and different ways.”

The statement spoke about how ‘Bishop Alan’ was an avid runner who formed not only friendships and made good acquaintances but who also unintentionally built up goodwill and affection for himself and the mission of the Church.”

The statement noted that not only did his people appreciate “his brisk celebration of the Mass,” but more importantly they appreciated “his insightful preaching of the gospel, apt both for understanding the mission of the Church in our context today, and the dynamics of faith and life that are the stuff of our spiritual journeys,” it said, adding, “Our affection for him has grown in his easy way and the readiness of his involvement in any good thing he has been asked to attend.”

Bishop Alan McGuckian was not found wanting when the Covid 19 pandemic struck His Mass was broadcast live on RTE online, and many parishioners expressed gratitude for what they called his ‘prayerful leadership’ during the worst of the Covid lockdown, saying it was invaluable, life-giving and, for many, life-saving.

“By means of ‘An Tobar Domhain’, centred on the rosary and the ‘Examen’ (a prayer drawn from the Jesuit spiritual art of discernment), he not only accompanied people spiritually and humanly but also placed a spiritual tool in our hands that would be a good legacy of his time with us if we were to practice it carefully still.”

The statement continued by saying there is a “real sense of loss at his going,’ but added that parishioners are aware that his leadership has put in place good things to help the diocese and each parish chart a way for a challenging future, with real faith and trust in the Spirit’s guidance and love for our Faith.

Bishop Alan is the Jesuit who founded the online prayer website sacredspace.com » which celebrates its 25 anniversary this year. Always the innovator he went on as Bishop of Raphoe to create a pilgrim walk in the footsteps of St Colmcille, the patron saint of Derry. He led the pilgrimage for several years as its popularity grew. In the statement, tribute was also paid to him in this regard. Listen here to his interview about the pilgrimage »

“We entrust him to the intercession of St. Colmcille, whose footsteps he followed along Slí Cholmcille, and whose example and life he set before with new vitality… We pray that the Bishop Martyr Blessed Conor O’Devenney, a native of the Drumkeen area and the martyred Bishop of Down and Connor, may intercede for him… And we send with him an assurance of friendship and prayerful accompaniment for his new mission.”

After their farewell Mass parishioners joined their Bishop for the last time with reminiscing and refreshments, in the nearby Loreto Secondary School.

Reporting on his transition the Donegal News noted that “Humble, compassionate, and inspirational were among the many positive words used repeatedly to describe outgoing Bishop of Raphoe, Bishop Alan McGuckian, during a series of celebrations to mark his departure from the diocese this week.”

Bishop Alan told the paper, “I came here on the 9th of June and I will never forget that day. Standing in the Cathedral, I looked out on some of the same people who were here tonight for the last Mass. In Donegal, I felt so at home. I was sure that I’d be buried here.” He added, “I’m leaving one home to go to another. There’s a real sadness but I’m also going with readiness and enthusiasm for what comes next.”

The bishop also described his feelings at the farewell Mass on Monday evening saying, “My heart just soared when I heard the opening hymn. It was a deeply spiritual evening for me. There was something very special about seeing people from every parish in the diocese, and choirs from every parish too,”

The Donegal News wished Bishop Alan well as he embarks on his new journey as Bishop of Down and Connor, saying the community of Raphoe “bids him a fond farewell, united in faith and gratitude for the impact he has made on their lives and the diocese as a whole.”

There was also a final blessing from the people of St Eunan’s, “Faoi bhat na Maighdeana thú i gcónaí, a Easbaig dhíl.”