Metropolitan Elia, formerly known as Priest Matti Veli Juhani Wallgren, is an alumnus of the seminary, having graduated with a Master of Divinity degree in 2003.
“Being the 2015 Commencement speaker at my alma mater Saint Vladimir’s will be a great honor for me and for the Finnish Church,” remarked Metropolitan Elia upon his acceptance of the invitation by Archpriest Chad Hatfield, seminary Chancellor/CEO and Archpriest John Behr, seminary Dean, to deliver the main Commencement address.
Father Matti was ordained to the priesthood on September 1, 2003, in Jyvaskyla, Finland. He served as second priest for two and a half years in central Finland, and for eight and a half years as Dean of the Cathedral in Vaasa, western Finland. Father Matti was tonsured and elevated to the rank of archimandrite on December 16–17, 2014, in the Valamo Monastery of the Transfiguration and given his new monastic name “Elia” in honor of the Prophet Elijah.
Archimandrite Elia was recently consecrated to the episcopacy on January 11, 2015, at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Oulu, by the hands of His Eminence, Archbishop Leo of Karelia and All Finland and the entire Synod of Bishops of the Finnish Church. Father Chad Hatfield, representing the seminary, attended Metropolitan Elia’s consecration and installation.
Metropolitan Elia noted that his “best years and most challenging years” were when he studied at Saint Vladimir’s. He credited the influence of three seminary Deans—Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann, Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, and Archpriest John Behr—as being key in his formation as an Orthodox priest.
The Orthodox Church of Finland is an autonomous archdiocese under the Patriarchate of Constantinople. It consists of three dioceses with 58,000 souls, and is one of two religious bodies legally recognized as a national church in Finland, the other being the Evangelical Lutheran Church.