Dominicans Make History in Finland with the Profession of a Friar

On Sunday, 27 August 2023, in Helsinki Cathedral, Brother Gregorius Pehrman, OP, made his solemn profession in the Order as a cooperator brother. For the Dominican family, whose friars played a central role in the evangelization of the country in the 13th century, the event had a historic character. Even though Brother Gregorius is the third Finn to join the Order since the friars returned to Finland in 1949 (the friars made profession in France during their formation), it was the first profession of a religious in Finland since the Reformation. 

The Catholic Church in Finland is a modest presence: 16,000 Catholics among 5.6 million Lutherans and Orthodox, scattered over a territory the size of Germany, with 8 parishes served by around twenty priests. Already present in southern Sweden, which at the time administered Finland, the Order founded convents in Turku and Viipuri (today Vyborg in Russia) as early as 1249, before disappearing with the Reformation, only to return in the 20th century.

Along with Br. Nicolas Tixier, OP, prior provincial of the Province of France, brothers from the Province of St. Thomas Aquinas in Belgium (Br. Gregorius is continuing his studies in Leuven) and the Vicariate of Dacia (Oslo, Lund, and Stockholm) attended the event. Also present were cathedral parishioners, lay Dominicans, and Brother Gregorius’ family and friends, most of whom were Lutheran. The mass was presided over by Br. Marie-Augustin Laurent-Huyghues-Beaufond, OP, the local superior, with Br. Gabriel Salmela, OP, as homilist. 

In his homily, Br. Gabriel reminded the audience of the meaning of religious profession as a follower of Christ and of the vocation of cooperator brother in the service of preaching. He also spoke of Finland’s Christian roots as discernible in Finnish painting and literature, an area dear to Brother Gregorius, who is well-connected in Finnish literary circles. 

A reception followed at Studium Catholicum, the cultural center run by the friars in Helsinki, with the help of the Dominican family, to rejoice with the local Church and the whole Order at the profession of Br. Gregorius. His assignment to Helsinki in the near future will bring the local community to three brothers, with the hope of welcoming new vocations.

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