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Obituary: Rev. Kevin David O’Rourke

Fenwick grad, ethics scholar said he was "going home" March 28.

The Reverend Kevin David O’Rourke, O.P., of the Dominican Central Province of St. Albert the Great, passed away peacefully at RUSH Hospital in Chicago on March 28, 2012 at the age of 85. Earlier in the day at the hospital, he was telling everyone present in his room that he was “going home” that day.

Fr. O’Rourke was born on March 3, 1927 in Park Ridge, IL. His parents were William Joseph O’Rourke and Winifred Ann Stanton O’Rourke. Fr. O’Rourke, the youngest in the family, had seven siblings who all preceded him in death: Winifred who was married to James Perkins; Mary who was married to Raymond Ward; Sr. Mary Winfrida O’Rourke, R.S.M.; William O’Rourke who was married to Betty; Agnes who was married to William Dejon; Kathleen who was married to Christopher Christianson; and Rita who was married to Robert McAdoo.

Fr. O'Rourke was regarded as a leading authority on health care ethics and bioethics, writing several books and publishing over a hundred articles examining such issues as genetic testing, surrogate decision making and physician-assisted suicide. For many years he wrote a column, “Ethical Issues,” published in Parameters80, the quarterly publication of St. Louis University Medical Center in St. Louis, MO.

A 1945 graduate of Fenwick High School in Oak Park, IL, Fr. O'Rourke played three years of football before injuring his back his senior year. As a senior, he helped Dan O'Brien manage the freshman football squad. He was also editor of the yearbook and president of Confraternity.

Fr. O'Rourke is a former Fenwick High School Board Member, current Life Trustee, Hall of Fame Member and recipient of the St. Martin de Porres Award in 2007 in recognition of his meritorious service to the medical profession.

He attended the University of Notre Dame for two years before entering the Dominican Order in 1947. By that time, he had also served in the US Navy. In 1954, he was ordained a Dominican priest and later went on to receive his JCD (Juris Canonici Doctor) from St. Thomas University in Rome in 1958. He also was given STM (Master of Sacred Theology) -- a degree awarded in the Dominican Order after outstanding teaching and writing of many years.

A former professor of bioethics at Loyola University Chicago, Fr. O'Rourke came into the medical field of health care ethics somewhat by accident. After teaching canon law and serving two terms in administration at Aquinas Institute of Theology, he accepted a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago. The Catholic Hospital Association (CHA) realized a need to respond to inquiries in regard to the ethics of abortion and other ethical issues in health care. Fr. O'Rourke became the contact official at the CHA. Since then, as the area of health care ethics has emerged as a major social concern for our culture, Fr. O'Rourke has been at the forefront of providing expert analysis on the philosophical and theological value of life in medicine.  

At the time of his death, Fr. O’Rourke was a scholar at the Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy at Loyola University in Maywood, IL. His interests in the behavioral sciences, theology, preaching and writing, led him through an illustrious career that started in 1958 at Aquinas Institute of Theology (located, then, in Dubuque, IA) - first, as a Professor of Moral Theology and Canon Law, becoming the Institute’s President from 1969 to 1972. His professional career includes: Graduate Fellow at the University of Chicago, 1972-1973; Director of Medical Moral Affairs, The Catholic Hospital Association, 1973; Member of the National Advisory Committee, NCCB/USCC, 1968-1974; Consultant to the Committee on Canon Law, NCCB, 1968; Chairman of the CLSA Religious Life Committee, 1964-1967; Chairman of the CLSA Committee to Evaluate Revised Code, 1969-1973; Vice President of the Midwest Association of Theological Schools, 1971-1972; Chairman of the Association Theological Faculties in Iowa, 1969-1971; Director of Religious Life Institutes at the University of San Francisco, the University of Dallas, and St. Xavier University in Chicago, 1966-1969; Director of Workshops on Religious Renewal at Rosary College (1967), St. Mary’s of Notre Dame (1968,1969), and Marymount College (1971); Director of Medical Moral Affairs at Catholic Hospital Association in St. Louis, MO, 1973-1978; Director of the Center for Health Care Ethics at St. Louis University Medical Center in St. Louis, MO 1979.

Fr. O’Rourke is survived by his many loving nieces, nephews, and grandnieces and grandnephews, the youngest of whom Fr. O’Rourke baptized recently. Memorial gifts may be made to the Ashley-O’Rourke Faculty Chair Fund in Health Care Mission at the Aquinas Institute of Theology, c/o Dominican Friars, Province of St. Albert the Great, 2005 S. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL 60608. The purpose of the fund is “to promote teaching, Catholic Health Care and Ethics.”

The Reception of the Body is scheduled on Monday, April 2, 2012, 5:00 p.m. at St. Vincent Ferrer Church at 1530 Jackson Avenue in River Forest, Illinois, with visitation up to 7:00 p.m.,followed by the Evening Prayer for the Dead. The Funeral Mass will be held at St. Vincent Ferrer Church on Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 10:00 a.m.

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