Priest to become U.S. citizen

St. Martin’s rector completes long journey

January 24 is a big day for the Rev. Mark Sutherland, rector of St. Martin’s, Providence. That morning, Sutherland will become a United States citizen.

“I’m really looking forward to being able to vote,” he said. “It’s such a period of turmoil and change. Being able to register to vote is very important to me as part of exercising my responsibilities to the community.”

Sutherland, who was born in New Zealand but also has United Kingdom (U.K.) citizenship, began his journey to United States citizenship in 2008, when he and his spouse, the Rev. Al Marcetti (an American), wanted to move from the United Kingdom to the U.S. to be closer to a granddaughter from Marcetti’s first marriage. But that turned out to be challenging.

“The U.S. did not in 2008 recognize our marriage status, so despite being a U.K. expert in clinical pastoral education (CPE), the only way I could legally come here was to start again as a CPE student, in a residency program at a level 1 trauma center in Phoenix,” he said. “That gave me a nonrenewable, 18-month visa.”

While in the U.S. for that study program, Sutherland got to know Bishop Knisely — then dean of Phoenix’s Trinity Cathedral— and in 2010 Knisely appointed Sutherland as canon for congregational development. With that appointment, he could apply for a religious worker’s visa, which put him in the green card/citizenship track.

Sutherland said the entire experience has forced him to rely on the grace of the Holy Spirit.

“I had no indication of how any of this would work out,” he said. “When you’re faced with trying to bring about a situation over which you have no control, it’s very humbling. It takes you back to the core priorities that matter in the Christian life. I have learned in a new way the experience of complete dependency on God’s grace.

“I remain deeply appreciative for having had Knisely’s support at a crucial turning point in my life in Phoenix,” Sutherland noted. “The confidence he had and continues to hold in me, together with my gratitude to Bishop Brian Prior of Minnesota, a classmate during my year at Church Divinity School of the Pacific as an Oxford exchange student in 1984-85 and who introduced me to Bishop Knisely, together with others at Trinity Cathedral, remains terribly important to me.”

The Rev. Mark Sutherland