Aihearkisto: Matkat

Rome/Rocca di Papa 6th-12th July 2009

Well it’s been a while since I finished my story on the US trip, and now it’s finally time to move on to the next one, namely, my trip to Rome, Italy. It was a very providential combination of two so far separate conferences/forums coming together in one place at the same time. On the one hand, there is the youth meeting organized by the Pastoral Care of Universities – the preparatory meetings of which I attended in Holland and Romania, as you might recall if you’ve been following the blog. On the other hand there’s the European Forum of University Students which has met in Belgium and Rome before, as also recounted earlier on this blog (see links by clicking the name of the place).


Amazingly enough members of both meetings were accommodated in the same place, Mondo Migliore in the municipality of Rocca di Papa just outside Rome. As you can see above, the location is stunningly beautiful, just opposite the Pope’s summer residence Castel Gandolfo, on the other side of a huge crater/lake. THe funny thing was, though, we arrived there 3 days early. Actually, both meetings were to start on the 9th, but we had been given ambiguous information on one of the meetings, which had a separate part for Italians only beginning from the 6th. In addition to a funny look from the reception we got some free time to spend in bella Italia!


The first thing we did was to get to know our municipality, Rocca di Papa. There was a steep hill which we had to walk up to reach the old square. We didn’t realise how long it’d take and how hard it’d be but we did it and the way back felt much shorter and easier, naturally:) At least we got to see some impressive sights. Above you can see the hill from the modern central square (see pic 1 below), now have a look down from the top of the hill (pic 2 below).



During the 2 days we could spend as ”tourists”, we visited 3 of the pontifical basilicas: St. Paul Outside the Walls (just after the Pauline year and the publication of my book it was a special moment), St. Mary Major (where we went to Mass) and St. John Lateran (near where I went to the Paoline bookshop and got 2 great books for my master’s thesis). We also visited the Forum Romanum, where I and Mari obviously conversed in Latin.


We spotted some Finnish tourists who were typically Finnish (dull, quiet, not realising where they are and what lies before their eyes and under their feet etc). I went up to them (two groups on 2 occasions) and asked them in Latin to take a photo of me. They were initially confused but then realised what I was asking and took the photo. When I thanked them in Finnish, they found it slightly funny but said nothing back. Couldn’t change their Finnish ways.


On the 9th we met some familiar faces over breakfast. In addition to the usual European delegations we learned we were going to be joined by three Middle Eastern delegations: A Hebrew one from Haifa and two Arabic Christian ones from Jerusalem and Beirut. How happy I was to be able to be fully half-European and half-Arabic, as I really am! The Arabic delegations became good friends very soon (see photo above: Arabic delegations in front of Mondo Migliore). But there was an unfortunate incident as well – I lost my camera that morning on the way to the first meeting place (I am posting photos taken by friends). The only exception St. Anthony seems to make it cameras – it’s happened twice already.


Above you see the place of the first meeting of the Youth Forum of University Students. We went through the history of our meetings starting from Brussels, the meetings with the president of the EU parliament Pöttering and the goal of this meeting, which was to define more clearly our mission and sign a mission statement. This was accomplished in a later meeting. Below you see the happy group with the brand new Mission Statement.


If you’d like to read the document, see below. If you find it interesting and want to participate in future, let me know.


One funny incident was that we were told a bus would get us to this important final meeting but no such bus appeared and so we were forced to order taxis, wait for an hour or more and pay for the ride ourselves. We arrived late and finished late and had to skip lunch but there was one advantage: I and Mari made use of the extra time and asked the Hungarian delegation to teach us some Hungarian. So we got a paper sheet full of words and expressions. Photo below in tribute and thanks to the girls.


But as I said earlier, this meeting was partly combined with the meeting designed for university students by the Pastoral Care of Rome and that of several European countries under the patronage of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences. I and Mari from Tampere were the Finnish delegation for both events, but from many countries (such as Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Spain) there were huge delegations sent to this event. The opening ceremony at the Lateran basilica was amazing, not only thanks to the presence of students from all around Europe but also because I got to carry the Finnish flag and sit right underneath the statue of St. Paul which is on the cover of my book (see post below on the book).


In the program of this meeting there were workshops where people would share their experiences and thoughts on different aspects of the Faith. The theme was ”New Disciples of Emmaus – Being Christians in the University”. On the basis of the Emmaus story we reflected upon faith and science as well as the sacraments and evangelization. I got to speak a couple of times and a Russian Orthodox brother gave me a beautiful card of Sts. Peter and Andrew as a token of gratitude and admiration, which was a nice surprise, since I didn’t even know there were non-Catholics in the crowd. In the evenings we would have dinner together in huge groups and then gather outside to sing songs, play and dance in many languages.



Later on there was another big celebration at St. Peter’s Basilica. Before entering the World’s largest church we took some group photos. Then we started moving toward the entrance, where I accidentally or providentially met one of the flag carriers who reminded me I have to carry the Finnish flag. So I parted with the group, which anyways got to sit in the front row just behind us.





After the Mass we had a special audience with the Pope in the Apostolic Palace, which proved to be a very special event, for it was the first time that I got to shake hands with the Pope and look him in the eyes. He zig-zagged through the crowds and I had been smart enough to stay at the very back but closest possible to the central aisle where he’d walk.


Well then, on the last evening we had a great time at a concert just outside the University area of Tor Vergata, the university area where we had been having the workshops and dinners and songs and dances. It was also very near the location of the World Youth Day 2000 Cross. The concert was hosted by an Italian speaking in Italian, but other languages and countries got their share because of multilingual interviews and translations. There was both Christian and secular music in a good atmosphere. It was a celebration of multi-nationality, inter-culturality and catholicity. It ended in a beautiful show of fireworks.




The transportation was fairly well organized (buses took us there and back and we wandered in flocks to and fro singing songs as on pilgrimages:). The worst exception was an accident on the first night when Mari’s bus hit a car because of a stupid dog on the way, but luckily no one was hurt and the group arrived safely at the accommodation. At the concert we had fun with a Spanish group from Córdoba, singing Mala Persona etc (on the last night I saw the beginning of their Sunday Mass in Andalucían dialect:D). On the way back from the concert on the night bus we had fun with the Arabs while the others were already sleeping. We had been joined by an Iraqi Christian from Mosul (where my roots are, too!) and so we had fun with songs and jokes and all.


The most amazing thing, however, was the flight back home. It had already been an amazing providence that I got the ticket on the 6th, because the plane was very full and they said there was little chance of getting a seat with an ID ticket (stand-by). Many, including a couple on their way to their honeymoon trip, were turned down, but I (after a Rosary) and another Catholic girl (actually an old friend of my sister’s) were let on board. But this time, on the way back home, I was actually turned down at the gate (although they had let me through the check-in!) – there were no free seats left.

”No?”, I asked… a second of silence… with no more time to waste, I asked: ”What about the jump seat?” – ”Jump seat? Let me check”, came the answer. And the man checked, and the answer was positive! My dad had taught me to ask for the jump seat in such situations, this is the last resort, the seat in the cockpit right behind the pilot! But then they asked me for my ID card… oops. ”No, it’s my dad who works for the airline… ” When they walked me to the plane, the same question came from the staff. ”No, it’s my dad… but I learn fast and I’ll do whatever I’m told.” ”Well, we can only take staff members… ” The door to the cockpit was opened and the pilot heard the news – I’m only the son of the mechanic. But again I told him I’d learn the required things and happily abide by all his commands. He let me in!

The flight was amazing. The scenery is so much more beautiful from the cockpit. Also, it was incredible to see how many petty details the pilots need to know and handle to make the plane fly safely. With the headphones on I heard all the conversations between different planes and was totally confused at all the codes and sounds and everything. I kept quiet and observed, but the pilots were surprisingly sociable (the nice kind of authentic and real Finns – rehti, reilu ja aito suomalainen).

They taught me stuff about the plane and flying and told me stories and asked me questions. I taught them to reply to the contacts made by the airports of countries we flew over in their own languages (many Slavonic countries, especially Poland, which the co-pilot addressed with a newly-learned ”Jak leci?”). And we ended up talking about theology for much of the trip!

We talked about Jerusalem and peace in the Middle East, Reformation doctrines, female priests, salvation history, hypocrisy, and 9/11. The pilot told an anecdote – he was flying on 9/11 and he overheard a conversation between Helsinki-Vantaa and an Aeroflot plane on its way to the US. They told the plane they cannot go to the US because there has been a terrorist attack and the airspace in the US has been closed. After a moment of silence the answer came in a Russian accent: ”Come again”. ”Yes, there has been a massive terrorist attack in the US and they won’t accept any flights, you have to go somewhere else.” Again a silence. Another heavily accented Russian response: ”Confirm USA closed?”

They had apparently not believed what they heard until they got the same message from Russia when they had already flown past Norway – then they turned back. Luckily my flight didn’t turn back but arrived safely in Helsinki-Vantaa. The most breathtaking sight was that of Helsinki by night from the sky – beautifully lit… I could see all the way up to Järvenpää and further. At the airport Mari surprised me and attacked me from behind – she had not seen me on the plane and had thought I had not made it and thus was happy to see I had come home too. All in all it was a wonderful week, many new friends, new encouragement in the faith and a lot of stories to share – some of which you’ve just enjoyed reading right here.

St. Paul/Minneapolis 19th-20th June 2009

I finally got my long lost memory card from the US and so I can finish the story of my trip to America. We travel back in time to the evening of June 18th, as I say goodbye to the Hahn family in Steubenville, am driven to Pittsburgh by a neighbor of theirs and take another Greyhound bus toward Minnesota via Chicago, Illinois.




This must be the time to expand a little on my Greyhound experiences. I spent over 60 hours on those buses during my 2-week stay. I met all kinds of people you can see black people and a Jew below, as well as a nice black driver. The drivers changed every now and then (glad they did – I suddenly realized I could be in danger on those bus rides if a driver fell asleep in the night… many lives in one man’s hands…), and there was another black driver whose English was extremely fast and very hard to follow. One traveler wore a t-shirt that said ”Wish I could kill every day”.




Every now and then we had stops and could get off the bus and stretch our legs, and oftentimes visit a nearby McDonald’s, as in Wisconsin in the photo below. I also noticed huge differences in the bus stations. For example, in St. Paul there was barely a parking lot for the bus plus a tiny building with a desk and a waiting room. By contrast, the station in Milwaukee was big, beautiful and modern. I remembered Milwaukee from my Super Nintendo baseball games, and now I got to stop there:) Obviously, sometimes you’d get to see some cool things through the windows – below you can see one – a double rainbow:)




Well fine then, it’s time to tell about my first days in Minnesota. My friend Jerry was expecting me on the bus stop in St. Paul, and had patiently been doing so for more than an hour – we were badly late. But we arrived, and it was a happy reunion – it had been some years since I last saw Jerry in the 5-3-1 juggling festival in Helsinki. Now he got to show me around St. Paul/Minneapolis. Here are the most important political and religious monuments (the latter we’ve already seen, but not in all its splendor):



We went out for an American dinner and finally headed home along peaceful, green parkways. It was an America wholly different from that of New York and Pittsburgh. It reminded me of Finland and I felt like I could live there. Then it was time for me to give Jerry some gifts: a traditional juggler’s hat and a booklet on what/who other than St. Paul, by who other than Scott Hahn:) Jerry also played me some mandolin:)



After a night well-slept (remember the previous night was spent on a bus) we drove to the American Swedish Institute to celebrate a true Finnish midsummer. No, just kidding, there was no Finnish midsummer celebration in Minnesota, only in Wisconsin, and so I opted for our beloved and hated western neighbors, which was good because Jerry has some Swedish blood in him too (although he’s lost all ties with Swedish culture – which might not be all that bad:). Putting a sticker with the Swedish and American flags on it onto my heart was like sticking a dagger in, but there I was trying to act happy and speak Swedish… but guess what – almost nobody knew any Swedish!



But soon the traditional dresses and summer hymns (I didn’t know they had Suvivirsi in Swedish!) brought me home to a very Nordic atmosphere. I attended a lecture on Swedish midsummer traditions and finally spoke some Swedish with the lecturer. I also got to speak Swedish with a girl from a choir that had come all the way from Sweden to Minnesota just to sing at this event (obviously they did some other things too since they were in the US now). There was another choir, too, a men’s choir, which reminded me of my grandfather and uncle who are well known in the family for involvement in men’s choirs.



The climax of the midsummer celebration was of course the midsummer pole which was decorated and raised around 1 pm. It was a very hot day but we danced around the pole anyway singing about smågrodorna and smågrisarna (pienet sammakot, pienet sammakot, ne lystikkäitä on jne på svenska:). I also offered some aunties some salmiak :) One of them remembered her grandfather used to have that… But they didn’t want to have any more:)



Then it was time to attend another festival, namely, World Juggling Day picnic by the river. There, it goes without saying, we juggled a bit and got to know some new people. I met Alan and his fiancée from Peru and had some interesting theological discussions with him. And of course we had something to eat. It was a nice, fun and peaceful afternoon.



In the evening we headed to the Mall of America, which I heard is the biggest shopping center in the world and hosts the biggest inside amusement park in the world. The tickets were ordinarily very expensive but since it was evening they were very cheap, so I got to take a ride on all kinds of fun machines, and they let Jerry on one for free, too! I also visited the Barnes and Noble bookshop and was amazed at the quality of the books they had on Christianity compared to, say, Stockmann in Helsinki… (the two books on the right are incidentally the precise ones Scott Hahn was reading back in Latrobe. I got and read the Pope’s book already but still need to find Wright’s book somewhere without paying too much for it:)




Well I guess that was pretty much it for America, then. I still haven’t written about my trips to Italy and the pilgrimage to Turku. Hope to do that sooner than later. Now it’s time to say goodnight… (with my bed in Minneapolis.)


New York 27th-28th June 2009

It is time to tell about my 2 last days in the US. I took a Greyhound bus one more time from Hagerstown to New York via Philadelphia. I arrived in New York around 5 pm and headed to a beautiful chapel for a Saturday evening meditation, after which I had a nice get-together with some nice people. I got the chance to tell them about Finland and let them taste Finnish salmiakki (ammonium chloride, commonly eaten as candy in Finland), which about 90 % of all foreigners find disgusting:D



I had the privilege to stay with Tony, a friend of a friend of a friend, with Portuguese background. He had a nice flat on Manhattan with nice flatmates as well. We had a good evening with some good beer and excellent music as well. In the morning we headed to St. Patrick’s cathedral for Sunday morning Mass. It is one of the world’s biggest and most impressive churches and it was full of people.




After Mass we went to Central Park and took a ride around with a horse (and a rider who explained to us where all the famous movie scenes took place).



Then it was time to have lunch, after which I already had to take the bus from Grand Central to the airport. There I was reunited with my father and brother. We spent the last (little) money we had and got on the plane, which safely brought us home to Finland. Then I had only a week to recover from jet lag and prepare for my trip to Italy, about which I will be writing… soon.:)

Washington DC 26th June 2009


Welcome to Washington DC and the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception! Now that was another amazingly beautiful sanctuary right there, one of my definite favorites! I visited Washington with Bob Sungenis, had some great Ethiopian food first and then went to Mass here on St. Josemaría’s feastday.


After Mass we visited the bookshop and had a good laugh when in the ”saints” section there was first St. Therese of Lisieux and then next to her – Scott Hahn! As I was taking a photo, a woman walked by and informed me: ”He’s not a saint!” Sungenis had a good laugh and what crowned it all was that the woman recognized Sungenis and said some kind words to him.


Next we visited some sights, including the natural history museum where Sungenis as a faithful young earth creationists informed me of all the mistakes of the datings and reconstructions of various dinosaur bones etc. It was fun and we had good discussions. Then we saw the white house but we were lucky enough not to see Obama though.


It was a very hot day and so we got a beer and sat down at a concert of Celtic music. Then suddenly it started pouring and we got all wet but found shelter in an Episcopalian church. We drove back home, talked and had some wine and salmiakki, went to sleep, got up early in the morning and it was time for another bus ride… and the last days in New York.

St. Paul – Hagerstown/Greencastle June 24th-25th 2009

After the trip to Chisholm I came back to my host family and spent a fun evening with them telling about the trip and teaching twinkle twinkle to little James in the Finnish language. I also got to meet the first representative of the third generation. Here’s a nice family portrait. I really felt like part of the family.


Like mother, like daughter: Emily and Michelle going to morning Mass (and I with them of course). There was another perpetual adoration chapel and we stayed there for a while. There was also a nice picture of the conversion of St. Paul in the church.


Then it was time to leave St. Paul (both the picture and the city, but not the apostle) behind and head on a 27-hour-long road trip! I took the Greyhound bus from St. Paul to Hagerstown, Maryland, transfering in Chicago, Illinois and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania plus somewhere extra. Some of the stops were in Madison, Tomah, Cleveland, Milwaukee… I sat next to some very interesting and sometimes peculiar people. A man from Liberia, a Sufi from Pakistan, an Amish family that spoke a very strange German dialect… at one point the lavatory ”for your convenience” (as the driver always announced) was actually for our inconvenience because well… it started stinking big time. Here are some views from the journey: Chicago by night, Pittsburgh by day and an Amish baby&uncle:)




Sometime before 6 pm on the 25th I arrived in Hagerstown. I was taken to Greencastle, PA, where the Sungenis family resides. Robert Sungenis is a Catholic apologist, founder and president of CAI. He is also a baseball umpire and so I got to see my first baseball game:) I also got to meet the wonderfully sweet children. They loved my magic tricks although there were problems pronouncing and remembering names on both sides:) I heard one of them later said: ”Elmo didn’t know our names, but he did card tricks for us.” :D



I also brought some salmiakki (ammonium chloride ”candy”) and soy sauce for Bob;)


Chisholm 23rd June 2009

And the journey continues. Now it’s time to tell about one of the most exciting days on my trip (and perhaps in my life too), as I finally got to travel to Chisholm where my grandfather was born in 1917. None of my family members ever got the chance to go there so I was the first. It wasn’t easy though – there are no trains there, no buses either, and the plane would’ve cost like 400-500 dollars. Providentially a friend of mine found two friends who were willing to help me out and drive me. Randy (left) drove me to Forest Lake and Paul (right) drove me to Chisholm and then back to Hinkley, where I took the bus back to St. Paul. We all had breakfast together and celebrated my graduation (Bachelor’s) which officially took place that very day.


After about 3 hours of driving up north we were finally in Chisholm. As people had told me, the nature (trees etc) in northern Minnesota is just like Finland, and so it was. On the way I was reading some old correspondence between my great-grandfather and the relatives back home in Finland. Chisholm itself as a town surprised me – it was much more beautiful and advanced than I thought. But it still retained a peculiar sense/spirit/smell of the early 1900s. Here are some of my first impressions in visual form…




We only had 3 hours to spend in Chisholm. Obviously our main concern was to try to find information on my family. The first thing we saw was the Tourist Information (imagine they have one in Chisholm but none in Pittsburgh!:D). We spent a while there and got some useful materials about Chisholm but the woman there gave us lousy advice as to how to spend the 3 hours (go eat somewhere nice, go see the mines and ride all these new fancy machines etc). We didn’t take the advice but instead went to the archives of the library. We had a look at some old newspapers but didn’t have much luck in finding info about my family.



Down the street there was a souvenir shop, and of course I wanted to get souvenirs for my family. I went in and realized it was almost all Nordic stuff, Finnish and Norwegian flags and hats and cups and mugs and whatnot. So I asked if I could find an American Finn or Finnish American, whichever way you want to put it, and soon the shop was full of them! So one of my long time dreams was fulfilled as I got to hear some true Finglish from these people:) Their parents had come to the US and stayed, they had been born there like my grandfather but never returned to Finland.


As you can see above, our next destination was the Research Center (yes, there just happened to be one in Chisholm, there aren’t many of them in the area). There we had some more luck and found some documents related to my great-grandfather. We also found his home and work address in old phonebooks, and with the help of old maps we found out which modern streets those houses are on today. Time was running out, but we made it just in time to the neighborhood and found all the relevant places. We even got inside the house where my grandfather was born and talked with the woman who lives there now.


So, after an intensive 3 hours (sharp!) we headed back with loads of materials, of which I could only cover a small portion in this article. I will hold a presentation to my family (and why not others too if someone is interested) on my grandfather’s birthday, the 6th of September this year, where I will go through more materials and in more detail. For now I leave you with a photo where I stand before the beautiful nature of the iron mine Chisholm next to the Research Center.


St. Louis Park & North St. Paul 21st-22nd June 2009

As I said before, I will have to skip over two days and come back to 19th-20th when I have my lost memory card. Now I will post about my days with the Jacobs and the Adam families in Minnesota, near St. Paul, the capital of the state. First, on the 21st I was taken to Holy Family Church in St. Louis Park where the parish priest gave an amazing homily on Fatherhood and the ”rights of men” (!) since it was Father’s day. I met my host family, Jim and Barbara Jacobs and we drove home – yes, I say home because the beautiful house immediately felt like home, and by the evening I felt as if I had been in the family for ages!



We had brunch and started talking about Alex Havard, who gave me Jim’s contact info, since he is a good friend of us both. We immediately connected and had loads of things to talk about. During brunch Jim and Barbara’s daughters came for a father’s day visit with their children, so it was a real family reunion. Discussion topics multiplied as I found out one of the son-in-laws knew about Kalevala and the other one was a theologian of Philipino origin. After brunch we juggled in the backyard with the grandchildren and had a lot of fun.


In the evening we went to have dinner at a Chinese restaurant. It was a delicious dinner and we sure didn’t run out of discussion topics. Afterwards we drove around a bit and saw some of the lakes in the area – Minnesota is much like Finland (thousands of lakes…)



Later in the evening we attended Eucharistic Adoration in Holy Family Church. It was beautiful to see a perpetual adoration chapel. Next morning we went to morning Mass in the same church and met the parish priest again, and he gave another wonderful homily since it was the memorial day of St. Thomas More. The Jacobs lent me the movie Man for All Seasons on St. Thomas More which I then watched later on. After Mass and breakfast it was time to move on from a house&family that had truly become like another home for me.




Barbara was kind enough to drive me to my next destination, which wasn’t that far away anyway, namely, to North St. Paul. There I met Emily Adam, who had been in Finland a couple of years earlier. I also met her wonderful family, parents as well as 4 sisters and one little brother. They were all lovely and again I felt totally at home. Among the cool experiences were eating at Sonic’s (where they bring the food from the restaurant to the car on rollerskates) and visiting the Cathedral of St. Paul, which immediately entered the list of my favorite churches (you can see why).




Again I got to see some beautiful MN nature, lakes and trees, and later in the evening Emily’s mother Michelle was kind enough to drive me to Shoreview, another place close to St. Paul, where I met Sharon, whom I had already met at Juho and Dorota’s wedding in 2005. We talked a lot and had some red wine, after which Sharon in turn drove me back to North St. Paul. (Michelle left, Sharon right in photo below). Then it was time for the movie night (Thomas More). Then to bed, for I was going to have to wake up early for an exciting day… stay tuned.



Steubenville June 18th 2009


So, it’s time to tell about my trip to Steubenville, OH, to the Hahn house. Scott stayed at the conference, while his daughter Hannah and I drove ”home” in the middle of the night. We found the right way almost accidentally after having gotten lost, we arrived around 1 am. I was introduced to my room on the 3rd floor with nice wallpaper, very fitting for people whose most famous book is called Rome Sweet Home.


It was a beautiful house, and a big one, too, 4 floors in total counting the basement and the attic. I spent most of the day inside, sometimes alone in my room (especially when sleeping), other times with the children in the basement, doing magic tricks or talking about soccer. Actually I and Joseph (14) went on to play soccer and do some juggling outside with a local friend. When we came back I realised what a beautiful place the house was located in – what a view from the backyard!



The most important thing though was the visit to the Franciscan University of Steubenville, or rather the campus chapel where we all attended Noon Mass. Before that I and Jeremiah (17, now 18) visited the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, the one that sponsored me to the event at st. Vincent’s.



Before I left Kimberly Hahn was kind enough to play some piano, including her newest composition and Be Still My Soul, which is originally Finlandia by Jean Sibelius. Oh and I can’t forget to mention the hour (or two) I spent at the Scott Hahn library in the basement – the library has only about 40,000 books in it, and I hear Scott orders at least one more book every day! I also heard he’s read at least some parts of all the books. Crazy stuff. At this point I am missing some photos because of a memory card I forgot in the US, so I’ll skip 2 days and come back to them as soon as I get the card back (someone should send it to me). Here’s the library from the outside.


St. Vincent Seminary 16th-17th June 2009

So, I spent two more days at St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, PA. Those were some heavenly times for me and so I’d like to pay tribute to the people that contributed and share some thoughts and pictures and links.


First of all, Dr. Scott Hahn (behind in the above picture) is the professor for Biblical Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, a famous convert from Presbyterian Calvinism to Catholicism as well as founder and president of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. To know more, go to or


Secondly, John Kincaid (front in the first photo), who picked me up from Pittsburgh (after a series of confusions as to who would pick me up – about 4 different people were supposed to do it before him – he was definitely the right man for it!), is a doctoral candidate at Ave Maria University. His conversion story from Presbyterian Calvinism to Catholicism can be read here and heard here (in more detail).


Next, two of the other main presenters were also big names and fine men, and soon they too became friends. Brant Pitre and John Bergsma are doctors of theology and coworkers with dr. Hahn in many projects. They gave talks on Romans 1-3 and 5-8 and kindly answered many of my questions. Pitre also gave me a copy of his masterful dissertation on Jesus, the Tribulation and the End of the Exile. His website can be accessed here.


I had the privilege and joy of having lunch and dinner with these men as well as attending a heavenly banquet in the church with them. Also, Dr. Hahn would sometimes take me on his golf cart and give me some personal advice and instruction. In addition to the talks and Masses we had free time, adoration, Q&A-sessions and socializing (with free drinks – used with temperance:). The Q&A session (below) reminded me of the Apologia Forum in Ryttylä, except that the church and the theology were different:)



In the evening of the 17th there was a storm in the area and they feared a tornado might hit us. I actually saw a photo of the tornado in the newspaper in Pittsburgh later on, and well, I wouldn’t have wanted to be hit by it. Luckily we were safe, and Hannah Hahn who was driving to the seminary to pick me up got through it all (rain and hail) safely as well. We left the seminary before midnight but got lost… but then it’s already the 18th and so you must stay tuned to hear what happened next…


New York, Pittsburgh & Latrobe June 14th-15th 2009

So let’s have a look at some interesting events at the beginning of my trip. My first destination was a center of Opus Dei in New York, but in order to get there I needed to take the subway. There I got lost because of unclear maps, I lost my metro card, too, and felt very insecure because of all the masses of people from all over the world, Asian, African, Hispanic… But finally I found the beautiful center and met some nice friends.


Then I took one of the famous yellow NY cabs and got on the night bus to Pittsburgh. The bus wasn’t too good, the driver was unpleasant, and a Russian drunk sat next to me. At each stop the driver put the lights on and woke everyone up. In Pittsburgh no one seemed to have a map, the city was not at all prepared for tourists. Luckily there was a map in the newspaper article that, to my surprise, informed me that there would be a parade in celebration of the Penguins’ Stanley Cup victory just that noon! So I found my way and took part in the party, which took place just outside a Catholic church where I attended noon Mass:


And thus Purgatory ended and Paradise started. After getting a glimpse of ”Lord Stanley” and some of the Penguins, I was picked up by an ex-Reformed Catholic theologian and driven to Latrobe, PA to attend a conference on the Gospel of St. Paul in Romans. We had an intense discussion in the car and many more with other theologians at the seminary where the conference took place: St. Vincent Seminary. The Benedictines chose a beautiful place for their monastery. Even top sports teams go there to practise:


The St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology was kind enough to sponsor me to this conference suited mainly for priests, deacons and seminarians. In addition to me there were only a few other lay theologians. I had a nice room, too, near two of the presenters, doctors of theology Scott Hahn and Brant Pitre, whose work I’ve been admiring for quite some time.



The first evening we had the first talk by Dr. Hahn, the founder and president of the St. Paul Center. After the talk we had a chance to socialize, get to know each other and some new publications as well as talk some solid Catholic theology. This atmosphere was something I can’t find in Finland, and it certainly gave me energy and inspiration for the whole upcoming academic year. My thanks to Drs Hahn&Pitre and John Kincaid.