FR Dennis M O’Rourke of the 1971 St Patrick’s Missionary Society class passed away peacefully at St Vincent’s Hospital n Monday and his funeral mass takes place in St Patrick’s Chapel, Kiltegan on Thursday followed by his burial in the Society Cemetery.
Denis Mary O’Rourke was born on February 11, 1942 to Jack O’Rourke and his wife B’Mai (née O’Doherty) of Kickham Street, Thurles, Co Tipperary. He was the second eldest in a family of two girls and two boys. He received the first years of his primary education in the Presentation Convent, Thurles.
He then went to the Christian Brothers for the rest of his primary education and continued with the Christian Brothers for his secondary education. He sat the Leaving Certificate in June 1959 and joined St Patrick’s Missionary Society the following September.
After completing the Spiritual Year he went to St Patrick’s College, Douglas, Cork, and obtained a BSc degree at UCC. He returned to St Patrick’s College, Kiltegan, in September 1963 for a four year course in theology.
He and his ten classmates were ordained in St Brigid’s Church, Hacketstown, on Easter Sunday of 1967. The ordaining prelate was Most Rev Patrick Lennon DD, then Auxiliary Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin.
After ordination Denis was appointed to the Diocese of Minna, Nigeria, but because of the Civil War he was unable to take up his appointment immediately. Instead he was sent to teach science in Baltinglass Vocational School and to study for the Higher Diploma in Education at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.
He set out for Nigeria in September 1968 and spent the next thirteen years ministering in the Diocese of Minna. His first appointment was to Fatima Secondary School in Minna. During his time there he also did pastoral work in Gwada.
In 1972 Denis was transferred to Zuru in the north of the Diocese. He taught in a Co-Ed secondary school. In 1975 the school became a Teacher Training College and Denis became the ‘unofficial’ Vice Principal. When Denis completed his time in Zuru he decided to take a sabbatical and did a nine month course in Liturgy at Mount St Anne’s, near Portarlington.
Denis returned to Minna in July 1978 and was appointed to a provincial town called Abuja which was later to become the Federal Capital of Nigeria. He ministered there for three years.
He left Nigeria in December 1981 as his father had taken ill. As he wanted to be fairly near his parents he was appointed to St John’s, Tralee, for a number of months. Then he was appointed to promotion work in Ireland and visited some parishes of the Archdiocese of Dublin and also parishes in Waterford and Lismore Diocese and in Cork Diocese.
At the end of his time on promotion work he was asked to join the formation team at our House of Philosophy in Douglas, Cork. He served there from 1984 to 1986 as dean and bursar. When our House of Philosophy moved to Maynooth Denis continued on the formation team for a further two years. In 1988 he was re-appointed to St John’s, Tralee, and served there until 1992.
In 1992 Denis was appointed Superior for Ireland, a post he held until 1998. During those years he visited the members living in different parts of Ireland and was also very involved in the day to day running of the Kiltegan compound.
After his appointment as Superior for Ireland Denis took a sabbatical year in which he did the Faith and Mission Course in Dalgan Park and a three month renewal course at Marianella, Dublin.
He then went to work at a Retreat Centre run by the De La Salle Brothers in Castletown, Co Laois. He helped out with school retreats and found the ministry very rewarding. He was appointed Bursar General of the Society after the 2002 Chapter and he held the post until March 2015.
After stepping down as Bursar General Denis continued to live at Kiltegan and helped out in the Promotion Office until he became ill.
In April 2021 Denis began to feel unwell. He was admitted to St Vincent’s General Hospital where he was diagnosed with a serious illness. Over the following months he received treatment for the illness which necessitated fairly long stays in hospital. He was admitted to St Vincent’s General Hospital once again at the end of October. His condition began to deteriorate. He died peacefully at 10 p.m. on Monday evening. At his bedside were his sisters Claver and Ita.
Denis was very warm, friendly, kind and good humoured. He was a very sociable person who loved the company of other people. He was the life and soul of any party he ever attended and was a gifted master of ceremonies.
He loved to sing a song or tell a story or a joke. He was constantly on the lookout for a good joke and had built up a huge repertoire of funny stories over the years. Denis gave great service to the Society during the 54 years of his priestly life. He worked in formation, promotion, leadership and finance.
He made a tremendous contribution to the life of the Kiltegan community over the last two decades. He took a keen interest in every aspect of Society life and loved to be in regular touch with many members. He was also very interested in Liturgy and was a gifted preacher. His homilies were well prepared, to the point, and illustrated by memorable little stories.
He remained very close to his family throughout his life and loved being present for the baptisms, birthdays and weddings of his sisters, his nieces and nephews. It was very fitting that they were with him at the moment of his death.