By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
Father Matthew W. Guckin, 44, has served as the school minister at Bishop Shanahan High School in Downingtown, Chester County, since 2006.
He graduated from St. Timothy School and Father Judge High School for Boys in Philadelphia.
Before entering St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood at age 30, he received a bachelor’s degree in logistics in 1988 from Pennsylvania State University, then worked as a logistics consultant to the transportation industry.
From St. Charles, Father Guckin earned a master’s degree in moral theology.
He was ordained a priest for the Philadelphia Archdiocese in 1999.
Q. What are your chief responsibilities as school minister?
A. To oversee and ensure the school maintains a Catholic identity so that the students are aware of the beauty of Catholic life.
Q. What classes do you teach and what do you enjoy most about them? What extra-curricular activities do you oversee?
A. I teach two classes of theology to seniors and I love how honest they are. I am also the announcer for Shanahan’s home football games, chaplain of the rugby team and a former moderator of the school newspaper, “Shanaviews.”
Q. How do you make the faith “fun” for students?
A. I try to give witness to how living the Gospel of Jesus Christ leads us to true happiness. Mysteriously, it is the cross which blesses us and leads us to happiness.
Q. What is your message to incoming freshmen?
A. The friends you choose to surround yourself with will go a long way in determining your character and, ultimately, your destiny.
Q. What is your message to graduating seniors?
A. Our faith is always an invitation which we can either accept or reject.
Too many people abandon the faith but they really have no idea what they are rejecting.
Faith is vital because without faith you cannot have hope. And to be without hope is like living in hell.
Q. What do you tell students about the importance of making the most of the mind God gave them?
A. They should always be asking: does this thought or action or belief bring me happiness and make the world a better place?
Q. What is your advice to students who feel rejected because they are not “popular” and find it a struggle to come to school every day?
A. Jesus was not popular. Popularity doesn’t necessarily mean happiness. That’s why it’s so important to have faith.
Q. What is your message to students about the importance of being charitable to all – no bullying, no gossiping, no disparaging comments or judgments?
A. When people are uncharitable, that reveals so much about the person who’s being uncharitable. Eventually, it’s going to do them in because the only way you can sustain a friendship is with acts of virtue.
Q. What ministries, devotions and or faith-related clubs have you implemented at Shanahan since you arrived as chaplain?
A. The most important thing I’ve done is bring spiritual stability to the school and, in particular, to our Kairos retreat program.
Last year, 70 percent of our seniors voluntarily attended the four-day retreat and this year we’re on the same pace. Additionally, I’ve added the Forty Hours devotion every March and increased Eucharistic Adoration to once per week throughout the year.
Generally, I believe we’ve made good use of technology during school Masses.
If I can sum up my ministry here at Bishop Shanahan, the anthem would be: “Bring ’em in, build ’em up, send ’em out.”
We bring them into our Catholic schools; we’re called to build them up with the Gospel of Jesus; then, we send them out to make a difference in the world.
Q. What do you say to students to encourage them to attend Mass on a regular basis?
A. They live in a world which is based on fads and sound bites. The Catholic faith gives them a rock, something that’s stable and permanent.
It doesn’t make their problems go away, but it helps them to handle their problems.
Life, inevitably, is going to hit – and when it does, if you don’t have faith, you’re going to collapse, you’re going to be destroyed.
Going to Mass is vital for strength and grace.
Q. Peer pressure can be a big burden for students. How do you help them to address this issue?
A. I quote Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
The examination of one’s life can happen best in the context of quiet prayer. It distances us from the emotion of life and enables us to think with a clear head. Faith purifies the intellect. It enables us to perceive reality as God perceives it.
Q. What do you say to students who may be ashamed of some of the choices they have made but want to wipe the slate clean?
A. That’s why Jesus gave us the sacrament of reconciliation. And that’s the beauty of the Gospel – it teaches us that our God is a God of mercy, and a God of second chances and third chances and fourth chances….
Q. What is your advice to students as they consider future careers or a future vocation to the priesthood or religious life?
A. No matter what path you choose, have Christ by your side and Christ within you.
Q. What do you tell students about God’s love for them, and that God wants them to be happy?
A. I try to get them to cultivate a spirit of gratitude. That requires reflection – how have I been blessed? – rather than complaining about what we don’t have.
I bring them to the school chapel and go through exercises, such as, “think of five ways God has blessed you today.”
When we look at our blessings, we can only be left with one conclusion – God’s undeniable love for us.
Q. What Scripture passages related to youth are among your favorites?
A. Matthew 19:16-30: “The rich young man.”
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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