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A Fond Farewell

A Fond Farewell
Fr. Brou and Fr. Hypolite depart Jesuit after years of distinguished service

“I remember the students being more carefree,” Jesuit school chaplain Fr. Francis Brou, S.J. said, looking back a half-century. “They didn’t seem as busy back then. The classes were not as hard. There was no such thing as AP. We didn’t have a big counseling department. There was no MPR – we had the ‘cafetorium.’ The baseball field was rinky-dink. ... ”

That was the mid-1960s, when Fr. Brou first arrived, a full 50 years ago and less than a decade after Jesuit had moved from downtown to Himes Ave.

Priests such as Fr. Brou have been the soul of Jesuit since its inception in 1899, connecting generations and eras. This summer, though, Brou and another long-time, influential Jesuit presence on campus, Fr. Douglas Hypolite, S.J., said goodbye to the school at which they have helped form so many “Men for Others.”

Combined, they served Jesuit High School for 32 years, 16 apiece.

Both had two tenures at Jesuit. Fr. Brou first served from 1964-71, then returned 35 years later in 2006, staying for nine years and mentoring hundreds of young men in their faith.

“Every other Friday we used to meet off-campus at a restaurant called The (Sweden House) Smorgasbord, for reading and discussion, maybe 15 students,” Fr. Brou said, recalling a senior-level French class he taught in the ‘60s. “Some of the people who were eating there would listen in.”

Fr. Hypolite first came to Jesuit a decade after Fr. Brou’s first stint ended, in 1981. Fr. Hypolite spent a year in the English department before serving as school principal for three years from 1982-85. He returned in 2003 for 12 more years at Jesuit.

“The 80's were some of my favorite moments,” Fr. Hypolite said. “I’ve enjoyed watching the students learn and how they learn. It gives me great satisfaction to see them succeed and become successful in life.”

"Fr. Hypolite engaged his classes in a manner that clearly displayed his genuine care for our success," said Matthew Madigan '14, who took Spanish with Fr. Hypolite. "His classes were always interesting, filled with anecdotes and humorous tales that helped our understanding."

Versatile and dedicated, Fr. Brou and Fr. Hypolite performed almost every role on campus. His first year alone, Fr. Brou taught algebra, trigonometry, and three different religion classes.

When Fr. Hypolite was principal, he also served as liaison to the Jesuit Mothers’ Club. (“The students may be surprised to know that I worked well with mothers and do understand where they are coming from.”) For the past 12 years he has worn a number of hats, including those of counselor, foreign language teacher, assistant principal for discipline, Board member, superior (rector of the Jesuit residence), and Department Head of foreign language and counseling.

“Yet he was never too busy though to help out on a retreat, to take his turn at the Masses on campus, or offer his services to a local parish,” school president Fr. Richard C. Hermes, S.J. said in May at a farewell convocation in St. Anthony’s Chapel. “Fr. Hypolite is a generous priest, a master of languages, an exacting teacher, and a Jesuit dedicated to Jesuit secondary education.”

To many families at Jesuit, though, Fr. Hypolite may be best known as an elite, French-trained chef. His culinary skills are so revered that a bidding war would break out each year at Gaudiosa for the marquee live auction item, “Dinner with Fr. Hypolite.” Through the years he helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for the school this way.

Beyond their tenure on Himes Ave, Fr. Brou and Hypolite have served far and wide. As Fr. Hermes noted at the farewell convocation, Fr. Brou has lived, among many other places, in India, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), South Africa, and Japan. He returned to Tampa in 2006 as superior of the Jesuit community and school chaplain.

“I’ve felt in recent years more comfortable as a counselor – I wasn’t a good teacher, in my judgment,” Fr. Brou said. “I’ve enjoyed my (recent) time here. In all the times I’ve ministered, this has been the most peaceful and enjoyable.”

“He has been a spiritual rock for us all,” Fr. Hermes said. “A model priest – warm, human, perceptive, welcoming.”

Will Wellman ’01 met Fr. Brou through his brother, Tyler Wellman ’05, who had met Fr. Brou at a retreat in Louisiana.

“After I was diagnosed with kidney disease (in 2008) and moved back to Tampa, I came to see Fr. Brou quite often as he became my central spiritual counsel,” said Will Wellman, who has a Master’s in Divinity from Princeton. “Through our meetings, Fr. Brou taught me how to move past distractions to what I now believe constitutes the heart of our relationship with God, resting in God's presence.

“To me, Fr. Brou evokes all that is good about religion – not ideology and arguments but sincerity, compassion, and a calmness that typifies God's presence.”

The Provincial has reassigned Fr. Hypolite to Strake Jesuit High School in Houston (his second tenure at Strake Jesuit), and Fr. Brou to the Jesuit retreat center in Convent, La. (the Manresa House of Retreats). In their place at Jesuit High School this school year are Fr. Guillermo Arias, S.J., who has a Master’s in counseling and is the new school chaplain, and Fr. Paul Deutsch, S.J., who will teach math and theology and replaces Fr. Hypolite as the superior of the Jesuit community. Like Fr. Brou and Fr. Hypolite, Fr. Deutsch is making his second stint at Jesuit, having first served the school from 1997-2000.

Fr. Brou and Fr. Hypolite both departed Tampa in July. But while Fr. Brou has been settling in to his new role in Louisiana, Fr. Hypolite is taking a detour – to France.

A connoisseur of language, food and wine, Fr. Hypolite was granted a six-month sabbatical by the Provincial and is spending that period of prayer and study in the French town of Nancy.

“I would like to stay five years consecutively in France,” Fr. Hypolite said. “I enjoy the languages, and there are so much to see and do, places to go, and to have great conversations that are uplifting.”

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