Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The Great Cloud of Witnesses

Saint Joseph Freinademetz
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M.

Saint Joseph Freinademetz

January 28

Saint Joseph Freinademetz, S.V.D., was an Austrian Roman Catholic priest and missionary in China. He has been declared a saint by the Catholic Church. Freinademetz was born the fourth among the 13 children of Giovanmattia and Anna Maria Freinademetz in Oies, a section of the town of Badia, which was then in the County of Tyrol, a part of the Austrian Empire, now a part of Italy. He studied theology in the diocesan seminary of Brixen and was ordained a priest on July 25, 1875. He was assigned to the community of San Martin de Tor, not far from his own home. During his studies and the three years in San Martino, Freinademetz always felt a calling to be a missionary. He contacted Arnold Janssen, founder of the Society of the Divine Word, a missionary congregation based in Steyl, Netherlands. With the permission of his parents and his bishop, he moved to Steyl in August 1878, where he received training as a missionary. In March 1879, he and his confrere Johann Baptist von Anzer boarded a ship to Hong Kong, where they arrived five weeks later. They stayed there for two years. Freinademetz was based in Sai Kung until 1880 and set up a chapel on the island of Yim Tin Tsai in 1879. In 1881 they moved to the southern region of the Province of Shantung, to which they had been assigned. At the time of their arrival, there were 12 million people living in that province, of which 158 had been baptized. Freinademetz was very active in the education of Chinese laymen and priests. He wrote a catechism in Chinese, which he considered a crucial part of their missionary effort. In 1898, he was sick with laryngitis and tuberculosis, so Anzer, who had become the bishop of the region, and other priests convinced him to go to Japan to recuperate. He returned, but was still not fully cured. When Anzer had to leave China for a journey to Europe in 1907, the administration of the diocese was assigned to Freinademetz. There was an outbreak of typhus in this time, and he helped wherever he could, until he himself became infected. He returned to Daijiazhuang, Rencheng District, Jining, South Shandong, where he died. He was buried in Daijiazhuang, at the twelfth station on the Way of the Cross. He is remembered on January 28.

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