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26 Jan 2022

The late Fr Denis O'Rourke, Kickham Street, Thurles - An Appreciation

The late Fr Denis O'Rourke, Kickham Street, Thurles - An Appreciation

A member of the Kilteegan Order, Fr Denis passed away a few weeks ago

Denis Mary O’Rourke was born on the 11th of February 1942 to Jack O’Rourke and his wife B’Mai (nee O’Doherty) of “Sunnydale”, Upper 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, Thurles, for the rest of his primary education and 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 B.Sc. degree at U.C.C. 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, (26 March), 1967. The ordaining prelate was the Most Rev. Patrick Lennon, D.D., 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, where 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 1978 and was appointed to a provincial town called Abuja, which later gave its name to the Federal Capital of Nigeria. He ministered there for three years.


He left Nigeria in December 1981as 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 Cork Diocese.


At the end of his time on promotion work, he was asked to join the formation team at the Kiltegan House of Philosophy in Cork. He served there from 1984 to 1986 as Dean and Bursar.


When the Kiltegan 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 involved in the day to day running of the Kiltegan campus.


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, the 15th of November. At his bedside were his sisters, Claver and Ita.
Denis was 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 tory 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 Kiltegan Society during the 54 years of his priestly life. He worked in promotion, formation, leadership, and finance. He made a tremendous contribution to the life of the Kiltegan community over the last two decades.
Denis took a keen interest in every aspect of his Society’s 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.


Denis was pre-deceased by his parents, Jack and B’Mai, and by his brother, Fr. J.C. of Lismore Diocese, Australia, He is survived by his sisters, Claver Hill (U.K.), Ita Loughnane (Maynooth), his brothers -in -law, Robert Hill and Michael Loughnane, his nieces, nephews, and their families.


Ar dheis De go raibh a anam uasal.

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