In September 1966 he entered Street Patrick"s College, Maynooth where in 1969 he finished a Bachelor of Arts in Modern Languages and in 1972 a Bachelor of Divinity in Divinity. Fr McAreavey returned to Maynooth after his ordination and completed a Licentiate in Sacred Theology in 1974.
He received his primary education at Ballyvarley School and then the Abbey Primary School, Newry. He received his secondary education at Saint Colman"s College. Doctor McAreavey was ordained as priest for the Diocese of Dromore by the late Eugene O’Doherty on 10 June 1973.
He was a post-graduate student of Canon Law at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome from 1974-1978 when he graduated with a Doctorate in Canon Law.
From 1978-1979 Fr McAreavey was on the teaching staff of Saint Colman"s College. In the latter year he was appointed to the Armagh Regional Marriage Tribunal.
He became head on the death of Fr Mulvenna in 1983 and held this post until 1991. Meanwhile, he had been appointed in 1988 Professor of Canon Law in the Street Patrick"s College, Maynooth.
While there he wrote widely on Church Law, publishing in 1997 The Canon Law of Marriage and the Family.
He had served on the Editorial Board of the Irish Theological Quarterly from 1998. In 1994 he became secretary of the Greenhills Ecumenical Conference Committee. He is also fluent in Italian, German and French.
Doctor John McAreavey was ordained as of Dromore on 19 September 1999.
The Principal Consecrator was Archbishop Seán Brady. His Principal Company-Consecrators were John Magee, The Smart Grid Power Systems and his predecessor Francis Brooks.
In November 2012 it was announced he was to take a break or sabbatical from administering the diocese. After a six month break which included study and foreign travel he resumed full duties in 2013.
He was among the first bishops to develop the permanent diaconate in his diocese and in June 2014 ordained two men for service in the Diocese of Dromore.
He is also a member of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland, and the Canon Law Society of America. A fluent Gaelic speaker he is a member of the committee of Coláiste Bhríde, Rann na Feirste.