Long road to a new home

New Divine Savior pastor embraced change to Catholic faith in his native Kenya

FATHER GIDEON BUYA (left photo) is shown outside St. Rose of Lima parish in Fredonia on Tuesday, June 18, after saying his first Mass there. Buya, who arrived after serving in Sheboygan, replaces Father Todd Budde, who is shown (right) saying his final Mass for Divine Savior at Holy Cross on June 9. Photos by Sam Arendt
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press staff

 It’s only about 30 miles from St. Clement Catholic Church in Sheboygan to Fredonia, but Father Gideon Buya’s road to become the new pastor of Divine Savior Parish is probably longer than most.

    For one, he is a native of Kenya and, for another, he is the son of a Pentecostal elder.    Growing up in a Pentecostal household, faith played a central role in his family’s life, he said.

    His mother was raised Catholic, however, and because a Catholic church was nearer to their home, he sometimes attended Mass with uncles or cousins from his mother’s side. 

    “In a way I grew up in both traditions,” Buya said.

    When Buya was in his late teens, he was accepted into the Catholic faith and eventually  decided to pursue a vocation in ministry.

    “When I shared with my father that God was calling me, he was very supportive,” he said. 

    Soon he was in the Dominican Republic serving at a sister church to the Milwaukee Archdiocese.

    Buya learned to speak Spanish there and was involved in many of the church’s outreach efforts and empowerment projects for parish families.

    “The experience of seeing and living the liberating power of the Gospel was very profound,” he said.

    He moved to Racine in 2006 and continued to serve the Community of St. Paul, while also attending University of Wisconsin-Parkside where he studied French.

    In 2009, he enrolled at St. Francis Seminary and was ordained in May 2014.

    He was assigned as associate pastor at St Mary Catholic Faith Community in Hales Corners and after two years he was reassigned to Holy Name and St. Clement parishes in Sheboygan, where he was able to use his skills in Spanish to serve the Hispanic community there.

    It’s a skill he thinks he might be able to use at Divine Savior.

    He said there is a significant Spanish-speaking community in and around the northern Ozaukee County area.

    “One of the things I am hoping to do is to see how they can be part of the life of the parish,” he said. 

    The Divine Savior Parish includes the St. Rose of Lima Chapel in Fredonia, Holy Cross Chapel in the Town of Belgium and the former St. Mary’s chapels in Little Kohler and Lake Church.

    The parish serves the communities of Belgium, Cedar Grove, Fredonia, Holy Cross, Lake Church,  Little Kohler and Oostburg.

    Parish offices and Divine Savior Catholic School are in Fredonia, while the main worship venue is at Holy Cross. Masses also are said on Tuesdays at St. Rose.

    Father Buya is succeeding Father Todd Budde, who was with the parish for eight years and helped oversee the parish merger and the shuttering of the churches in Lake Church and Little Kohler.

    In his farewell homily on June 9, Budde told the congregation:

    “And now we are each faced with the next leg of the journey. ... While there is definitely sadness in saying goodbye, there is also a great deal of gratitude for having had this time together.” 

    Buya, having served most recently in the more urban setting of Sheboygan, says he sees many opportunities in his new post.

    “One of the opportunities I see at Divine Savior is, being a rural community, it is much smaller and the sense of community is much stronger and I do value it,” he said.

    “It will be much easier for me to be part of the community and being smaller you get to know more people in a shorter period of time,” he said. “I like getting connected to people. It’s very important to me.”

    Buya called the families at Divine Savior “passionate” about their communities.    

    “I am very excited because there is a real sense of ownership there and the people are proud of their communities,” he said. “They have a strong sense of leadership.”

    Buya said he also is looking forward to interacting with students and staff at the school.

    “I get joy from speaking at schools. And when I heard there was a school there, I was very excited about that,” he said.

    “I’ll be in classrooms and on the playgrounds and guiding the kids through adoration and prayer. For me that’s important. It’s a sign of life.” 

    While not being musical himself, Buya  said he also is looking forward to the musical traditions of the parish.

    “They have great music,” he said.

    Buya plays no instruments, but likes to sing in groups.

    “I don’t think I can do it alone,” he said.

    In his spare time, Buya said he likes to kayak, garden, read and bicycle.

    He just returned from a trip to Kenya to visit his father, now 83, and mother, 73.

    “He is still a Pentecostal and very committed,” Buya said of his father. “Whenever we get together, we discuss spirituality and theology and the way he sees it. We have fun discussions.”

    They have one thing in common on which they can focus, Buya said.

    “Following Jesus as a disciple and doing everything we can to be that. That’s the heart of it,” he said.

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