The National Catholic Committee on Scouting recently honored a Valley priest for his significant contributions to Boy Scouts of America.
Fr. Dennis O’Rourke, VF, pastor of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Cave Creek, received the Brother Barnabas Founders Award during the NCCS Biennial Conference in Irvine, Calif., April 24-27.
The special award recognizes Fr. O’Rourke’s long and meritorious service to the Catholic scouting movement in the United States.
Growing up in Massachusetts, Fr. O’Rourke began his 52-year scouting career—and counting—at the age of 7 as a Cub Scout.
He enjoyed the challenges, savored the outdoor adventures and made wonderful friends as he moved through the ranks, getting as far as Life scout.
“Boy Scouts is the premier youth organization in our nation that develops strong leaders. I meet amazing young people through the religious emblems programs, and they are doing wonderful things,” Fr. O’Rourke said. “I just believe in the Boy Scout program. It changes kids’ lives and I’ve seen it happen.”
It’s hard to miss Fr. O’Rourke at one of the many Diocese of Phoenix Catholic Committee on Scouting events. Clad in his uniform, broad-rimmed hat and grasping his hiking staff, he blends right in with the other adult leaders.
That’s one thing he loves about scouting, the camaraderie.
“As a Scout, I can go anywhere in the country and I’m immediately one of them. It’s a positive program, and it’s important for boys to know the Church is involved in their lives,” he said.
For several decades Fr. O’Rourke has been front and center in the Catholic scouting movement.
Locally, he influenced the participation of a Troop, Pack and Venturing Crew at his home parish and he founded the service-oriented diocesan Venturing Crew in 2009, in addition to serving as diocesan chaplain.
For the past 25 years Fr. O’Rourke has attended Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, NM, serving as chaplain. Currently he serves as NCCS vice chair of finance and Region 13 chaplain. He has served on numerous national boards and committees throughout his career including national chaplain.
“He’s a rock star of scouting,” said Fr. Arthur Nave, parochial administrator of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Peoria and NCCS Region 13 chaplain.
“This award recognizes his contributions of time, talent and treasure to the movement and all the boys he has helped at a national level. He has been the voice for Catholic scouting.”