Dubrouillet engineers change to a new vocation


James Dubrouillet’s trek to the priesthood has followed a circuitous route, from Missouri to Texas to South Carolina and seminary training in Washington and Maryland, but following his ordination to the priesthood by Bishop David Thompson at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston on July 12, he will be happy to just settle into parish life in South Carolina.

A native of Mexico, Missouri, Deacon Dubrouillet holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University, as well as a master’s degree in that field from Purdue University in Indiana.

He credits three priests assigned to the Catholic Student Center at A&M, Father Leon Streider, Jesuit Father Marvin Kitten, and Father Al Palermo, for furthering his inclination to a religious vocation. The Catholic parish at the school, St. Mary’s in College Station, has long been known as a strong recruiting ground for future priests, as many Texas dioceses receive large numbers of vocations from the college each year.

Following his graduation from Purdue in 1990, Dubrouillet began working at the Savannah River Power Plant near Aiken as an engineer in plutonium and tridium production.

However, shortly thereafter, in 1992, he began formation in the Carmelite order as a pre novitiate and novitiate, studying first year theology at The Catholic University of America. “A lot of risk is involved in leaving your career for years to see if you are being called,” stressed Dubrouillet, who has had engineering articles published in technical journals. He added that while he continued his seminary training, he still received letters from a couple of companies asking “If you’re not happy in your present career….”

He described the Carmelites as “an active, contemplative group,” and said he “still has friends in the Carmelites,” but in approaching ordination with the order, he discovered it was “not for me.” While with the Carmelites, Doubrouillet worked as a carpenter for a summer, rebuilding an air handling system in one of their buildings and repairing a rock stairway. “It was a good way to relax and exercise,” he stated.

“Formation with the Carmelites was a very beneficial experience and taught me a lot about having a personal prayer life,” said Dubrouillet. “Jesus would very often retreat and pray for awhile. Mass is a whole different style of prayer than personal prayer.”

For the last four years, Doubrouillet has been studying at Mount Saint Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He served his summer assignments with Father Thomas Evatt at St. Mary, Help of Christians, in Aiken in 1995 and with Msgr. Charles Rowland at St. Joseph in Columbia in 1996.

Dubrouillet said that, “a good sense of what parish ministry is really like focused my work at the seminary, especially since parish life is so different in South Carolina.”

In citing his family’s role on his vocation, Dubrouillet said a main factor was his 92-year-old maternal grandmother Minnie, who got up every morning at 5 a.m., spent 45 minutes at home praying, and attended daily Mass.

And as strong as the faith of his grandmother was, so is Dubrouillet’s outlook on his pending ordination. “I’m not giving up anything. I see it as a great gain,” he exclaimed. “If you want something daring, really wild to do, try being a priest.”