Originally Published: March 10, 2018 6:02 a.m.
Fr. Pierre-Henry Buisson — rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Prescott — was born more than 5,000 miles away from Arizona, in Rochefort, France, and began his career as a clergyman in his native land.
But last month, more than three years since he became rector of the church at 2000 Shepherds Lane in Prescott, Buisson and his wife, Sophie, and their youngest children, Pauline and Clement, became U.S. citizens.
In an email to the Courier, Buisson recalled the ceremony on Friday, Feb. 16, at the Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse in Phoenix. “Pauline and Clement were as excited as us when we took the oath,” he wrote. “They shed tears during the ceremony. Because they are minors, they became citizens as soon as we became citizens, but they wanted to participate. Both of them quietly said the oath with us.
“We want to be part of the life of this country, our country now. We are proud to be able to vote and to serve in jury duty. For my kids, citizenship means belonging, too. They are proud to be Americans.”
Buisson also noted how dozens of the members of the St. Luke’s congregation attended the ceremony in Phoenix and cheered for the Buissons.
Their oldest son, Raphael — a 20-year-old student at Prescott College — is scheduled to become a U.S. citizen later this month, Buisson added.
St. Luke’s vestrywoman Deborah Pendleton-Maurice, in an email, outlined Buisson’s journey to Saint Luke’s: He was ordained in 1990 as a Roman Catholic priest in the St. Pierre Cathedral of Saintes in Bordeaux, France. Prior to his ordination, he had served six years in the French Army, as a sergeant and attended the seminaries of Poitiers and Bordeaux. After his ordination, he served as associate rector in the parish of Mirambeau, France, and later as an assistant rector in the parish of St. Genis de Saintonge.
Subsequently, he became the rector of Archiac, in southwestern France.
But Buissons’ life changed in 1996, when he resigned from his position as rector and asked Sophie Rodrcez for her hand in marriage.
No longer employed as a clergyman, Buisson went to work for an energy company, Gaz de Bordeaux, initially working in the mail room, then as a customer agent and later as a purchasing agent.
And although he no longer served as a clergyman, people continued to seek him out informally for guidance. “They came to me sharing their questions about their faith,” he wrote.
Although he continued for a time to attend Roman Catholic worship services he soon found the Protestant Church and, eventually, the Episcopal Church.
“My wife and I started to worship at a Protestant church, and very soon, around 1999, I discovered a small church in Bordeaux called ‘Gallican Church,’ which separated itself from the Roman church at the time of the French Revolution,” he wrote. “It was my first experience with a church who professed to be Catholic, but not Roman Catholic. In 2000 I discovered the Episcopal Church, almost by chance, and realized it was the church I had been looking for so long! I became an Episcopalian.”
In 2001, Buisson was received into the Episcopal Church, and in 2003 he was received by Bishop Pierre Whalon — at that time bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe – as a priest in the Episcopal Church.
“During this time, with my wife, we created a small French-speaking Episcopal mission, who worshipped every other week,” Buisson wrote of their time at the Mission St. Martin in Bordeaux. When their youngest child, Clement, was baptized, in 2003, Buisson became the priest-in-charge of the Mission St. Martin.
In 2008, Buisson and his family moved to Alexandria, Virginia, and Buisson earned a Master of Theological Studies in May 2010. He then accepted the call to be the assistant rector of St Martin’s in the Field, in Severna Park, Maryland.
Later, in 2013, St. Luke’s, in Prescott, initiated a search to fill its recently vacated position of rector, according to Pendleton-Maurice. And though the St. Luke’s vestry considered several candidates for the position, Buisson’s warmth, sincerity and sense of pastoral ministry led to their decision to invite him, in August 2014, to serve as rector of St. Luke’s, and he accepted the invitation.
According to Pendleton-Maurice, the vestry’s decision on the new rector for St. Luke’s has been popular with the congregation. She also noted the influence of Buisson, Sophie and their teen-aged children in the church’s revitalization and growth since Buisson became rector. Parish membership in all age groups has steadily increased since their arrival, Pendleton-Maurice wrote, and the Children and Youth Ministry, led by Sophie, is attracting new children, youth and younger families to the parish.