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Our Namesakes

The Ashley-O'Rourke Center draws its name from Fr. Benedict Ashley, OP, and Fr. Kevin O'Rourke, OP, two Dominican priests who had long histories working in bioethics and Catholic health care. 

Their seminal text, Health Care Ethics: A Catholic Theological Analysis, provided a comprehensive study of significant issues affecting health care and the ethics of health care from the perspective of Catholic theology. Now in its fifth edition, the text is regularly used in ethics courses across the country. 

At the Ashley-O'Rourke Center for Health Ministry Leadership we seek to continue the legacy of these two incredible men and prepare leaders in Catholic health care who are prepared to meet new questions and challenges. 

Fr. Benedict Ashley, OP


As the author of over 20 books and through his roles as an active teacher and consultant, Fr. Ashley had a major influence on 20th century Catholic Theology and ethics in America. A representative of the River Forest school of Thomism, he helped to recover and articulate an understanding of the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas that unites philosophy and the natural sciences and spent his life attempting to bridge the gap between science and religion.

Fr. Ashley was baptized into the Catholic Church as a young adult, after studying the works of St. Thomas as an undergraduate student. He went on to receive a PhD in Political Science from the University of Notre Dame and was ordained a priest in the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) in 1948 in the Province of St. Albert the Great. He later received a second PhD in Philosophy from Aquinas Institute in River Forest, IL (1949) and a Master of Sacred Theology - the highest honor granted by the Order for academic achievement - from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome (1979). 

Fr. Ashley served as Professor of Moral Theology at Aquinas Institute of Theology (Dubuque, IA) from 1972-1983 and as President from 1962-1969, and as an Associate Professor at the Center for Health Care Ethics, now the Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics at Saint Louis University. In his work, Fr. Ashley sought to illuminate for his students the ways in which science and the Catholic faith are compatible, rather than in opposition to each other.

Born: May 5, 1913
Professed: August 5, 1942
Ordained: June 4, 1948
Born to Eternal Life: February 23, 2013

Barefoot Journeying: An Autobiography of a Begging Friar

Biography of Fr. Ashley from the University of Chicago (2011)

Essays in Honor of Benedict Ashley for his 90th birthday (2007)

Obituary from the Catholic Health Association

Fr. Kevin O'Rourke, OP


Author of more than 200 articles, Fr. Kevin O'Rourke, OP was a leading scholar of health care ethics who helped Catholics and the broader society to think about important issues in health care, especially those related to the end of life. He was primarily focused on clinical care, the relationship between patient and doctor, and worked to develop the Church's understanding in this area through his grasp of the moral principles of St. Thomas Aquinas. 

A lifelong Catholic and Navy veteran, Fr. Kevin was ordained as a Dominican priest in the province of St. Albert the Great in 1954 and went on to receive a degree in canon law (1958) and the Master of Sacred Theology from the from St. Thomas University in Rome. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities from Aquinas Institute of Theology in 1998. 

Fr. O'Rourke began his career as a canon lawyer in 1958 with the Aquinas Institute of Philosophy and Theology in Dubuque, IA, where he served as Dean and President from 1969-1972. He dedicated his career to bringing theological and ethical principles to bear on emerging needs and questions in the health care community.

Fr. O'Rourke served in many positions with the Catholic Hospital Association of the United States, now the Catholic Health Association, and founded and served as the Director of the Center for Health Care Ethics, now the Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics at Saint Louis University

Born: March 3, 1927
Professed: September 15, 1948
Ordained: May 27, 1954
Born to Eternal Life: March 28, 2012

Learn more about Fr. Kevin O'Rourke, OP

Special Section of Health Progress honoring Fr. O'Rourke (2007)

Biographical Highlights from Health Progress (2007)

Select Bibliography from Health Progress (2007)

Obituary from the Catholic Health Association

Health Care Ethics: A Theological Analysis, 5th ed.


It is a "must-read" for any teacher of bioethics or health care worker of the 21st century!

Fr. Michael R. Prieur, STD
Professor of Moral and Sacramental Theology
St. Peter's Seminary
London, Ontario

Read the full book review from Health Progress.


Purchase the text