Words of welcome and homily notes of Archbishop Eamon Martin for the Episcopal Ordination Mass of Father Alan McGuckian SJ

06 Aug 2017

– Cathedral of Saints Eunan and Columba, Letterkenny, Co Donegal in the Diocese of Raphoe

Words of welcome
A Bhráithre agus a Shiúracha,

Ocht seachtain ó shin is mór an t-áthas a bhí le mothú anseo in Ardeaglais Naomh Adhamhnán agus Naomh Colm agus an scéal nua ag teacht isteach ón Róimh gurainmnigh an Pápa Proinsias an tAthair Ailéin mar an t-easpag nua ar Dheoise Ráth Bhoth. Meascadh an t-áthas sin ar ndóigh le n-ár mbuíochas ar son ministreacht an Easpaig Pilib, aoire caoin ceansa leata ar a chuid oibre ar son a phobail le fiche is a dó bliain.

​Agus áthas agus buíochas do Dhia ag borradh ionainn cuirim fáilte romhaibh go léir an lá mór ceiliúrtha seo – cuirim fáilte roimh an phobal, roimh shagairt agus roimh oird creidimh Ráth Bhoth. Beimid ag guí ar a son agus leoga ar son an Eaglais in Éirinn. Buíochas mór le Dia.

Friends, we gather to celebrate and give thanks that God has brought us to this happy day for Father Alan, Bishop Philip and the people, priests and religious of this diocese. I welcome all of you who have come here from across the diocese of Raphoe; Father Alan’s family members, brother Jesuits and close friends. I especially welcome Commandant Louise Conlon, Aide de Camp of President Higgins, Cardinal Brady, my brother bishops and the many priests who will join in concelebrating this Mass. We are grateful for the presence of so many representatives from other Churches and civic society.

Saint Eunan tells us that not long before he died, Saint Columba was meditating on Psalm 34. He stopped at verse 10 which reads: “The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”

Conscious of the great blessings that God has given all of us in bringing us to this special day, and aware of God’s boundless mercy towards all those who seek Him, let us acknowledge our sins and so prepare ourselves to celebrate these sacred mysteries.

Homily notes
My brothers and sisters, after listening to the Apostolic Letter our instinctive response is: Thanks be to God! Thanks be to God for calling a new shepherd to lead His flock here in the diocese of Raphoe. Thanks be to God for Father Alan’s generosity in accepting this new challenge and for Bishop Philip’s devoted service as shepherd over many years. Thanks be to God for the faith that has brought all of us to this special moment.

As Saint Peter said on the mountain of the Transfiguration: “It is wonderful for us to be here!” It is wonderful for us to be present at an occasion that only seldom comes around in the lifetime of any diocese – the consecration of a new bishop. Today’s ceremony links us back to the time of Saint Peter and the apostles when they were filled with the Holy Spirit and sent out by the Lord Jesus to make disciples of all the nations. Since then, from generation to generation, Our Lord’s ‘great commission’ has been passed down by the laying on of hands in an unbroken line of succession. Today’s souvenir booklet records a timeline of the bishops of Raphoe since the days of Saint Eunan himself. Recently I stood and prayed for Father Alan at the graves of three previous bishops of this diocese who went on to become Archbishops of Armagh, (three in a row, from 1870!): Daniel McGettigan from Mevagh, Michael Logue from Carrigart, and Patrick O’Donnell from Glenties.

It is humbling for me, Eamon Columba, a native of Doire Cholmcille, and in the name of Saint Patrick of Armagh, to continue the line of Episcopal succession in Raphoe by joining with my brother bishops in the laying on of hands and prayer of consecration.

It is indeed wonderful for us to be here! When Saint Peter spoke those words on Mount Tabor, he did not realise the significance of what was happening at the Lord’s Transfiguration. With his companions James and John, he fell down, overcome with fear at the slightest glimpse of the Lord’s divinity. Later they came to understand that Jesus was preparing them that days for His suffering, death and Resurrection – just as He was when He later brought the same three disciples to another mountain – this time to witness his agony on the Mount of Olives. These events, at Tabor and Gethsemane, etched in their memory the mystery of our faith, that the agony of the Cross and the glory of the Resurrection fit together in God’s plan for our salvation.

Dear brothers and sisters in the diocese of Raphoe, it is this same mystery of faith that Father Alan is called upon by God to teach among you – that by His Cross and Resurrection Christ has redeemed the world. Bishop Alan will be entrusted with the task of witnessing to the truth of the Gospel and fostering in you a spirit of justice and holiness. I encourage you to receive him as a minister of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God.

My dear brother Alan, as Ireland prepares to host the World Meeting of the Families this time next year, I am grateful to your family, your late parents, Brian and Pauline, and to the various families of faith which have helped to nurture and sustain your vocation – your extended family; your brothers in the Society of Jesus; the people, religious and priests of the diocese of Down and Connor. Together this family of families has helped you grow in the knowledge and love of God. I trust you will continue to be uplifted, protected and supported – as I have – by the prayers of your people and all those who love you.

Remember that you are chosen by the Lord to serve. The title of bishop is not one of honour, but one of humble service. Today we reflect on the words of our Heavenly Father at the moment of the Transfiguration – words which echoed His message at our Lord’s baptism: “This is my Son, the Beloved – Listen to him”.

Father Alan, at this life-changing moment for you, and in these challenging, but exciting times to serve as a bishop, I encourage you to be always attentive to the voice of the Lord who is with us to the end of time. Listen to Him. By discerning in prayer the signs of these times, find new ways to proclaim the Joy of His Gospel. You have already shown, in your ministry with young people as a teacher and university chaplain, and through your creative gifts of communication, that you can engage with the challenges and questions of today, and do so with confidence, conviction and with humility.

No doubt your familiarity with the thinking and spirituality of Saint Ignatius will help you live out, as a bishop, Pope Francis’ call to discernment and for accompaniment of the real life situations of your people. As the Holy Father himself puts it: “With the Merciful Heart of Jesus, the Church must draw near and guide the weakest of her members who are experiencing a wounded or lost love, by restoring confidence and hope, just as the beacon light of a port… illuminates those who have lost their way or find themselves in the midst of a storm”.

Father Alan, as bishops we are called upon to love the poor and infirm, strangers and the homeless. Love all those whom God will place in your care, especially the priests and all who share with you the ministry of Christ. I am confident that you will encourage the lay faithful, religious and priests of the diocese to work closely with you. Your significant contribution to the ‘Living Church’ project in Down and Connor diocese has clearly demonstrated that you can listen willingly and bring out the best in others.

A Ailéin, a Bhráthair, Tá fhios agam go maith an cion atá agat do Dhún na nGall agus a mhuintir, cothaithe ar ndóighe trí do chuairteanna iomadúla ar Rann na Feirste. Táimid ag súil go mór i mbliana le seoladh an Leabhar Aifrinn Ghaeilge. Bhí lámh ag an Easpag Ó Buaigh sa tionscnamh sin. Cuideoidh do eolas agus do urraim don Ghaeilge go mór leis an scéim a chur chun cinn . Chuirfeadh sé áthas mór orm dá dtiocfadh le níos mó paróistí bheith páirteach sa scéim, ní amháin paróistí sa Ghaeltacht, ach paróistí eile bheith réidh adhradh an Domhnaigh a chleachtadh go rialta inár dteanga dhúchais.

(I know your affection for Donegal and its people has already been nurtured by your many visits to Rann na Feirste. As we look forward to the launch later this year of the new Irish translation of the missal – a project in which Bishop Boyce was intimately involved – your familiarity with, and respect for the Irish language will be invaluable. I would be very pleased if more parishes, not just those in the Gaeltacht, could introduce regular Sunday worship in our native language).

My brother Alan, continue to proclaim the Good News of Christ whether it is welcome or unwelcome; do not be afraid to correct error with unfailing patience and sound teaching. 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.

We stand for universal truths and values that are drawn from our personal encounter with the joy of God’s love, together with an understanding of the human person that is rooted in the natural law and which strives for the common good. Ultimately everything we say is founded on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord.

As bishops it is always important for us to learn new ways of presenting our sincerely held perspectives alongside the opinions of those of other faiths and none, and to encourage conversations at a national level on significant issues and values. President Michael D Higgins’s recent ‘Ethics Initiative’ has identified the need for a debate in contemporary Ireland about what ethical values and principles we want to uphold and strengthen. We need to have conversations about what constitutes a ‘good life’ and ‘flourishing life’ not just for individuals but also for communities.

The engagement of people of faith together with all people of good will in such conversations is to be encouraged and welcomed. In entering such a process we in the Catholic Church can draw upon our rich tradition of social teaching.

Finally, my brother Alan, I encourage you to find strength in the witness of Saint Columba and Saint Eunan, from the love and protection of Mary, our Blessed Mother, and from your daily celebration and adoration of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist.

If you find yourself isolated and under pressure, listen to him! Listen for the voice of God’s Beloved Son speaking in your heart and pray, as tradition tells us Saint Columba did: “Alone with none but thee, my God, I journey on my way, what need I fear when thou art near O King of night and day! More safe am I within thy hand than if a host did round me stand”.

A Choilm agus a Adhamhnáin guighigí ar ár son (Saint Columba, Saint Eunan, pray for us). Amen.


· Archbishop Eamon Martin is Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.

For media contact: Catholic Communications Office, Martin Long, in Letterkenny: 00353 (0) 86 172 7678