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An interview with a ‘down to earth’ Bishop

Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ was recently interviewed by Fr Paddy Dunne of the Diocese of Raphoe, County Donegal about his life and appointment as the first Jesuit Bishop ordained in and for Ireland.

Bishop Alan speaks of his upbringing from being the youngest of six children in a big farm, to being taught by his dear aunt in primary school, to attending a diocesan secondary boarding school where he had a talent for languages. He remembers very vividly kneeling beside his father as a small child in the chapel in Cloughmills, County Antrim.

When asked what was stirring in his heart as a youngster, Alan says: “I already knew that I was going to be a priest but I didn’t like the idea at all, and I fought it and told nobody”. Instead of going to seminary straight after secondary school, he went to Queen’s University in Belfast where he studied for an arts degree. He eventually ended up in the Jesuit novitiate after visiting one of his Jesuit brothers who was helping refugee kids from Belfast at a programme in Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare.

In this half hour interview with Highland Radio, Bishop Alan talks of his 33 “whirlwind” years as a Jesuit which has included 3 years of languages in UCD, 2 years of active ministry in Clongowes, and 4 years of theology in Toronto. Regarding his tertianship (final training as a Jesuit), he says: “Tertianship in India and the Philippines was a life-changing experience”. In later years, he helped create the online prayer website sacredspace.ie and facilitated the Living Church listening process among parishes in Belfast.

Upon ordination as Bishop of Raphoe, Fr Paddy Dunne quizzes Alan about his Jesuit promise not to seek or accept higher office. Alan discusses this in detail and describes his surprising visit to the apostolic nunciature. To find out more about the first Jesuit Bishop ordained in and for Ireland, see the full video interview on the Kilmacrenan Parish Facebook Page.