BISHOP Alan McGuckian, SJ has been appointed by Pope Francis as the new Bishop of the Diocese of Down and Connor.
In a letter addressed to the Diocese of Raphoe on Friday, he announced his new appointment.
Informed of the change a short while ago, Bishop McGuckian said it will be a great sorrow for him to leave so many “wonderful” friends in Donegal.
“I have been overwhelmed during the past six years by the kindness and readiness of so many people to take me into their hearts.
“It has been the greatest privilege of my life to have been your bishop.
“As a priest I try to live my life under obedience to the Lord and when he calls on me to move again, even though I certainly did not expect or seek it, I go forward in trust,” he said.
Enjoying his time serving in the Diocese of Raphoe, Bishop McGuckian said he has been “inspired” and “encouraged” by the bedrock of faith among those in Donegal.
“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 and I will miss them greatly,” he said.
As Bishop McGuckian now looks forward to his new appointment, he reflected on his roots which are “entirely” in Down and Connor.
“Father Gerry Park baptized me and Father 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,” he said.
Taking time to address the people of Raphoe, Bishop McGuckian asked them to keep him in their thoughts.
“You, the people of Raphoe have always been in my daily prayers since I first heard that I was to be your bishop six and a half years ago.
“Now, I ask that you pray for me as I go to take up the Church’s mission in pastures new,” he said.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Eamon Martin welcomed the new appointment.
“As President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, and as Archbishop in the ecclesiastical province of Armagh, I warmly welcome Friday’s appointment, by Pope Francis, of Bishop Alan McGuckian, Bishop of Raphoe, as the new Bishop of Down and Connor,” he said.
Ordaining Bishop McGuckian in Letterkenny back in August 2017, Archbishop Martin offered him his ongoing prayerful support as he undertakes the significant new pastoral responsibility of shepherding the People of God in Ireland’s second largest diocese.
“Bishop Alan’s appointment is providential at this time of political renewal in Northern Ireland, and he will no doubt bring many gifts to enable peaceful relationships to grow and flourish in his new diocese – amongst the various Churches and faith communities, as well in political and civic life,” he said.
As he takes up this new appointment, Archbishop Martin prayed that the Holy Spirit will guide his decisions while helping him to embrace the pastoral challenges and opportunities that will lie ahead for him.
Bishop McGuckian will now act as the Apostolic Administrator of Raphoe as he prepares for his new appointment.
Following his move to Down and Connor, the College of Consultors will meet to choose a Diocesan Administrator to lead the diocese in the interim.
Bishop McGuckian has also confirmed that he will celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation in all the parishes as scheduled until the end of February.
“After that, delegation will be given to the local pastors,” he said.
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