Jyväskylä, Finland may be the place one would least expect to attend a traditional Mass in Latin with Gregorian chant. Yet this is precisely what happened to the author of this article and his Finnish-born wife during their usual 10-day August stay in Kuopio, in the Savo region in the central north of Finland.
Since the establishment of the first Catholic church in the city a few years ago, regular Mass and sacraments are no longer a problem in Kuopio, at least in the Novus Ordo. But—since we tradition-minded faithful are often accused of being insatiable—why not aim also at the celebration of the Vetus Ordo up there?
After nearly 50 years of marriage, this dream finally come true for us. Today a diocesan priest, Father Anders Hamberg, of St. Olav Parish Church in Jyväskylä, some 90 miles south of Kuopio, celebrates the Extraordinary Form. Ordained in June 2014, Father Hamberg celebrated his first Mass on Pentecost Sunday as a Missa Cantata according to the Missale Romanum of 1962, in the cathedral in Helsinki, with the blessing of the local bishop, Teemu Sippo.
Father Hamberg was subsequently assigned to assist the local parish priest in Jyväskylä, where he continues to celebrate the old Mass, normally on a weekly basis.
It has to be pointed out that the use of the word “normally” is not by chance; our experience tells that it is always a wise practice to contact the priest and/or the parish in advance to confirm that a specific Mass or religious service will be held. As one can easily imagine, the Catholic clergy in Finland are under particular strain for a number of reasons, and it’s no exaggeration to say that their apostolate may easily border on heroism. With fewer than 30 priests for the whole country, they are overburdened with commitments, and long distances coupled with harsh weather, especially during winter, further complicate the situation.
So we phoned Father Hamberg, who told us he would celebrate the old Mass for the Feast of the Assumption on Tuesday, August 15, providentially right in the middle of our 10-day stay in Kuopio, where we had arrived the previous Friday.
The Parish of St. Olav was officially established in 1949, with a new enlarged church commissioned in 1962. Some 15 people were present at the Mass for the Feast of the Assumption, including a number of children. Not an impressive number in absolute terms, but by way of comparison, a similar number of people were present at the traditional Latin Mass attended by the author and his wife just a few weeks later on September 3 in L’Aquila, the capital of Abruzzo region in central Italy, an area with a glorious Catholic history and tradition.
Interestingly, the traditional Latin Mass is making inroads in Scandinavia, thanks to the fact that at least three of the region’s six bishops are in favor of the old Mass. Bishop Czeslaw Kozon (Copenhagen), Cardinal Anders Arborelius (Stockholm), and Bishop Teemu Sippo (Helsinki) are known to be supportive of the celebration of the Extraordinary Form; Bishop Kozon has himself celebrated it, and the bishop of Stockholm, who was made Scandinavia’s first-ever cardinal by Pope Francis in June, went out of his way to inform his flock that a traditional Vetus Ordo Mass had been made available, posting a notice on the door of the church where it was being celebrated in Stockholm.
It is really not possible to describe our overwhelming feelings, having been given the chance to attend what is in all likelihood the northernmost regular celebration of the old Mass, not much more than a stone’s throw from the Arctic Circle. The author was particularly moved to have had the chance to serve again at the altar after a long time; Father Hamberg, since last Easter the parish priest of St. Olav, cannot rely on the regular service of an altar boy.