MARQUETTE – In what is believed to be a “first” for a Finn Fest celebration, a Catholic Mass is being offered as part of the festivities for Finn Grand Fest 2005 (Aug. 10-14). 

            An idea proposed by James Kurtti, the director of the Finnish-American Heritage Center at Finlandia University in Hancock, the Finnish-American Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m., Sunday, Aug. 14, at St. Peter Cathedral.

“When I tell people that there are plans to have a Finnish-themed mass at the Cathedral their initial response is nearly always a laugh of amazement,” Kurtti noted. However, he added, they quickly realize that they have jumped to the wrong conclusion.

“We all make assumptions that religion and ethnic identity go hand-in-hand - the Irish and Italians are Catholic and Scandinavians are Lutheran. Of course, once we pay a little attention, we see that these generalities are incorrect. Through conversions and mixed ancestries today, there are many people, for example, who have Finnish ancestry within the Catholic Church,” Kurtti explained.

He also believes that the Diocese of Marquette contains more Catholics with Finnish ancestry than any diocese in the world.

“Using available data, I have roughly estimated that there could be as many as 3,500 Catholics in the Upper Peninsula with Finnish ancestry.  Only the Diocese of Helsinki, which encompasses the entire country of Finland, could possibly have more,” Kurtti said.

Bishop James Garland of the Catholic Diocese of Marquette will preside at the Mass. He has invited local Catholic clergy of Finnish ancestry to concelebrate with him. So far, Dennis Maki, a permanent deacon from Marquette, plans to participate in the liturgy.

“There is a significant number of Finns who are Catholic, so we are eager for them to know they are welcome to attend Sunday Mass at the Cathedral. I look forward to recognizing all the Finns who are present,” Bishop Garland said.

Singers from U.P. Catholic churches have been invited to participate in a joint choir that will be under the direction of Jeff Bruning, the Cathedral’s music director. The choir will lead the congregation in singing and reciting some short responses in the Finnish language.

One of the hymns chosen for the liturgy is set to the tune of “Finlandia,” a Finnish patriotic song.  Bruning also hopes to line up someone to play the kantele (pronounced KAHN-teh-leh), which is the national instrument of Finland.

In addition, Kurtti and his wife Debbie of Painesdale, as well as Taylor and Molly Niemi of Bruce Crossing, will be dressed in Finnish costume as they present the Eucharistic gifts for the Mass.

People don’t have to be Finnish or Catholic to come to the Mass. Anyone who is interested is welcome to attend.

Prepared By
John Kiltinen