|Sacred Heart Priest in Finland|
Our History in Finland
The first Sacred Heart priests arrived in Finland over a hundred years ago in 1907. As a consequence of the Reformation the Catholic Church was virtually entirely destroyed in Finland and the country had become Lutheran.
When the Catholic Church began in Finland in the 1100s, it had come from the West, from Sweden. In its new coming the Catholic Church arrived from the East. Sweden lost Finland through war with Russia in 1809. Finland was then granted autonomy in many areas.
However, companies of the Tsar’s army were stationed in Finland. Many of the soldiers were from Poland and Lithuania, which at that time were also a part of the Russian Empire. In 1799 a church and parish were founded for them in Viipuri, which was then part of Finland. In 1860, St. Henry’ Church, a church dedicated to Finland’s apostle and first bishop, was built in the Finland’s capital city.
Because little by little Catholics from yet other countries began to come to Finland, the Polish military chaplains could no longer take care of everyone’s spiritual needs.
So the first Finnish-born Catholic priest after the Reformation, Wilfrid von Christiersson (ordained in Paris in 1903) wrote to Father Leo Dehon, whom he had come to know in France, and asked that he would send some of his confreres to help with the pastoral work in Finland.
Father Dehon visited in Helsinki in July of 1907 on his way to Denmark and Russia.
After his visit Father Dehon verified that work in Finland would not be easy and compared the work to a rock quarry, where hard granite is taken piece by piece. However, he was accustomed to accepting challenges for his society and so the very same year he sent the first Dutch confrere to Finland, Father Johannes van Gijselin SCJ. Two years later came another, Father Michael Buckx SCJ and in 1910 a third, Father Wilhelm Meyerink SCJ.
The beginning work of the first Sacred Heart Priests in Finland was not easy.
The Russians at that time had begun massive Russification projects, which the Finns interpreted as aggression and attacks on their autonomy. The Russians began to deport foreigners from Finland and so the Sacred Heart Fathers, too, had to leave the country. Shortly after this, they moved to Sweden, where they worked for some years.
When Finland became independent in 1917, Fathers van Gijsel and Buckx returned to Finland. The Catholic parishes in the country which up to that time had been part of the Mohilev archdiocese near St Petersburg, tried to establish some kind of orderly ecclesiastical presence in Finland.
In 1921 Father Michael Buckx SCJ was named the administrator of the newly established apostolic vicariate, and the following year he was consecrated bishop in St. Henry’s Church in Helsinki.
The vicariate grew gradually. More SCJ priests and also brothers from Holland came. They worked as parish priests, and with the brothers they built the church spiritually as well as quite literally. There were also some diocesan priests in the vicariate, above all, Father van Christiersson and the other Finnish-born priest, Father Adolf Carling.
Most of the work, however was given into the Sacred Heart Fathers’ care. After Bishop Buckx, there followed Bishop Gulielmus Cobben SCJ 1934-1967, Bishop Paul Verschuren SCJ 1967-1999, Bishop Jósef Wróbel SCJ, 2001-2008 and Bishop Teemu Sippo SCJ from 2009.
The first Finnish vocation to the Sacred Heart Fathers was Brother Erik Ikä, who worked mainly in Helsinki from 1931-1953. The first Finn, Father Teemu Sippo was ordained priest in May of 1977 and was ordained bishop on September 5th, 2009.
In the 1980’s Bishop Paul Verschuren SCJ invited priests to Finland from the Polish Sacred Heart province.
20 September 2011