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From banker to priest

Father John Dumas (click for larger version)
May 26, 2010 - It seems like everybody's making career changes these days, mostly for economic reasons.

But after almost 20 years in banking, John Dumas made the switch to Catholic priest for spiritual reasons.

"I honestly enjoyed the work that I was doing," said the 1980 Oxford High School graduate. "But I was never entirely happy doing that. There was something else that I needed to focus on. The priesthood was always there in the back of my mind."

On Saturday, Dumas was one of seven deacons to be ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron at the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral on Woodward Ave. in Detroit.

"My role from a Catholic perspective is to bring the sacraments to the faithful and that's really what I want to accomplish," he said. "There's a lot of unhealthy things going on in society and we as a church need to work on those things as they affect our day-to-day lives and even the priesthood. There's a lot of work to be done with regard to building up the faith."

At 48 years of age, Dumas, who grew up in Oxford and attended St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lake Orion, was the oldest of those ordained.

"I'm glad my seminary time is finally coming to an end and I'll able to get out and actively work in a parish," he said. "I have this feeling of elation and happiness. It's got to be very similar to couples who are getting married. I don't know how to describe it otherwise. There's just a lot of joy in seeing this finally come to completion."

Prior to entering Sacred Heart Major Seminary in 2005, Dumas lived in Warren and worked for Comerica Bank in downtown Detroit. "I was an internal, back-office kind of employee," he said.

When he left Comerica in 2003, Dumas was a managing a department that did planning and forecasting.

Although he'd always been interested in economics and finance, Dumas indicated that "in early 2000, it just became very obvious to me that it was the priesthood that was missing – that was what I was supposed to be focusing on."

"There wasn't really a defining moment, but there were a lot of little signs like the fact that I've always loved church architecture," he explained. "Everywhere I went I always made it a point of visiting churches."

And every church he visited had vocational information about the priesthood.

"I think those little signs were there all along the way and I just didn't pay too much attention to them," Dumas said.

Dumas spent some time looking into religious orders and taking evening classes at the seminary "just to find out where I was supposed to go.

"It took about three years before I entered the seminary to come to that determination of where I was actually being called to," he said.

When he told family and friends about his decision to enter the priesthood, the reactions were somewhat mixed.

"There were a couple of people that were surprised and thought that it was not a wise move, but by far the majority were very supportive," he said.

Dumas said most people told him "it was not surprising."

"Some people told me that they saw it in me before, but didn't say anything," he said.

Letting go of his old life and career was difficult at first.

After he left Comerica as a full-time employee, Dumas continued to work for the bank as a consultant until the summer after he entered the seminary.

But after five years at the seminary and spending the past year serving as a deacon at St. Anatasia in Troy, the lure of the financial world no longer appeals to Dumas. "I don't miss my banking career at all," he said.

He's much more content serving God and his fellow man.

"Every aspect of this has been extremely rewarding," Dumas said. "The effects of a good sermon, when people tell you that they found it to be moving, there's something extremely rewarding in that."

"It's also equally rewarding to be able to work with somebody one-on-one and to help them through an issue," he continued. "There's something really special about helping others."

Dumas attributes his strong faith and devotion to the church to the example set by his parents, the late Joseph and Dorothea Dumas. He said his family life, more than anything else, shaped his religious experience.

"My parents were both very active in the church," he said. "My father was president of the ushers club. My mother was always doing something at the church in relation to the school."

"As a family, we spent a lot of time at the church. That's really what I remember most – the example of my parents."

Now that he's been ordained, Dumas will serve as an associate pastor at St. Isidore, located on 23 Mile Rd. (near Romeo Plank Rd.) in Macomb Township.

"The Oxford I grew up in was very much a country town and I wanted to get back to a country setting," he explained. "St. Isidore was the closest to a country setting of the parishes that were available for me to be assigned to. It's much more built up as Oxford is now, but it still has a nice country feel to it."

"I'm quite pleased with it," he continued. "It was an attempt for me to kind of get back to my roots and see a little bit more of the country. You can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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