Father James Dubrouillet truly enjoys his vocation, and over the past few years he has received help in answering that call from at least one unlikely source.
Four years ago, Father Dubrouillet welcomed a small, white terrier puppy into his life. He called him Shadow, which at the time seemed an odd name for a white dog, but one that is quite logical these days. Father Dubrouillet can’t go anywhere on the grounds of Simpsonville’s St. Mary Magdalene Church without Shadow close by.
“He’s named for the verb, not the noun,” Father Dubrouillet said on a recent rainy morning at the church. Shadow was perched in a familiar spot — draped across the priest’s right shoulder.
“He likes it up high like this,” the priest said.
Father Dubrouillet is parochial vicar at St. Mary Magdalene, a role he has served for about a year.
He was born in Osage County, Mo., a place he said at the time was the “most Catholic” county in the country. Up to the 1980 census, the county was 99 percent Catholic, Father Dubrouillet said. “It was off-the-wall Catholic.”
He and his family attended St. Brendan Church, which was the only Catholic parish in the small town of Mexico, Mo., where he lived through fifth grade.
The family, which included two brothers and a sister, moved in 1975 to Holland, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia. He attended public schools because the Catholic schools were full.
It was during high school that a guidance counselor told the teen about a scholarship program in engineering at Texas A&M University.
“She knew I was interested in engineering and I ended up enrolling there,” Father Dubrouillet said.
In fact, engineering seems to be a well-established talent in his family.
“Both of my brothers are engineers and I lose track of how many of my uncles are engineers,” he said.
Father Dubrouillet earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1987 and moved to South Carolina to take a job in plutonium and tritium production at the Savannah River Site near Aiken. He remained there for 18 months before moving north to West Lafayette, Ind., to complete a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Purdue University in 1990.
While in college, Father Dubrouillet said he began researching what it would take to become a priest. Then, while helping a priest move from a parish at Texas A&M to one in Austin, he noticed a diploma hanging on the wall. It was in meteorology.
“The obvious thought that came to my mind was that if a meteorologist can become a priest, so can a mechanical engineer,” Father Dubrouillet said.
Now he will sometimes weave his knowledge as an engineer into his homilies, he said.
“I’ve given a homily where I mention the testing of road conditions,” he said, “and some of the parishioners have told me they’ve never heard a priest talk about different road surface conditions during a homily.”
Father Dubrouillet said going to Purdue to earn his master’s in engineering gave him time to consider which direction he wanted to pursue as a priest.
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.
He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop David B. Thompson at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston in July 1997.
He was assigned for a year at Christ Our King Church in Mount Pleasant. Since then he has spent most of his time in the Upstate with 18 months at St. Mary in Greenville, eight years at St. Joseph in Anderson, and is into his second year at St. Mary Magdalene.
Father Dubrouillet said his love of engineering has served him well in the12 years since his ordination.
“As an engineer you pull different things together to better understand them, and that’s what I enjoy doing as a priest,” he said.
He enjoys it when people ask him questions about their faith that they don’t fully understand.
“It’s a chance to make a distinction and say, ‘yes, in this context this is true, and in this context this is true’” he explained. “It’s fun to teach people how different things fit together when you get it right.”
It also helps, sometimes, to have a little shadow around.
Father Dubrouillet said a local woman who had chosen not to attend Mass for awhile was at St. Mary Magdalene recently, where she met Shadow.
She is now attending Mass there.