Our Patron

freinademetzSaint Joseph Freinademetz was born on April 15, 1852 in Oies in South Tyrol as the fourth child of John and Anna nee Algrong. He was baptized on the day of his birth in St. Leonard Parish church.

The Freinademetz family had 13 children among whom four died soon after their birth. The family lived a simple life and had to work hard to survive. It was only on special occasions that the family could enjoy meat with their main meal.

From 1858-1862 Joseph attended the elementary school in Badia. He was an excellent student and was considered very gifted and diligent. Those qualities were noticed by the teacher and his pastor who helped him in 1862 to transfer to a German school in Bressanone, located 50 km from Oies.

He attended that school for 2 years . Since German was not normally used in his native area of Badia, Joseph had to learn the language and even repeat his 3rd and 4th grade classes. Later he attended a Gymnasium (middle school) in Bressanone.

In 1872 he passed the graduation exam and entered the Seminary in Bressanone. On July 5,1875, he received the sacrament of Holy Orders. One month later he celebrated his first Holy Mass in his home parish.

As a newly ordained priest Joseph worked in the St. Martin Church located 12 km from his native Badia. He was very modest, kind, and friendly. On Saturdays and Sundays he would come to the church at 4 a.m. to hear confessions. The line to his confessional box would always be long.

At the beginning of 1878, there appeared in one of the church magazines information about the first Mission House in Steyl, Holland that was established by Arnold Janssen 3 years earlier. At the end of February Joseph wrote a letter addressed to Fr. Janssen informing him that he dares “with a full respect knock on the door of his religious house and ask for accepting him.” In August, 1878, he went to Steyl to join the newly founded Society of the Divine Word.

At the turn of 1878 and 1879, Fr. Freinademetz and Fr. John Anzfreinademetzer received short initial lessons in Chinese given by a Dutch missionary who had just returned from China. On March 2, 1879, these first Divine Word missionaries to be assigned to China received their mission crosses at Steyl. The same day they departed the Mission House to begin their journey to China.

On April 20, 1879, after a five-week trip, they arrived at the Hong Kong harbor. Fr. Joseph began his Chinese course in the village of Saikung, where he was helping out Fr. Piazzoli, an Italian Missionary. Trying to get to know the local people, he started in May, 1880 to walk around and visit the villages where there were no Christians.

In May, 1881, Fr. Freinademetz (who was called Fu Shenfu- fu means happiness; shenfu- a priest) was called to go to South Shantung, where the Italian Franciscans donated a part of their property to the Divine Word Missionaries. There were 9 million people there, among whom only 158 were Christians.

freinademetzIn March, 1882, he moved to Puoli, a place mainly inhabited by Christians. He preached and taught there in primitive clay huts that served him at the same time as places of prayer and rest. Wherever he sparked some interest among the listeners, he would withdraw and let the local catechists give further instruction since the people could understand their words more easily.

To equip the catechists with material for teaching, Fr. Joseph prepared commentaries to the catechism in Chinese as well as other materials. Among other projects, he prepared the rules for leaders of the Christian communities and principle ideas for sermons.

In December, 1885, Southern Shantung was recognized by the Vatican as an independent missionary entity. Fr. John Anzer became the leader of the region as a Vatican curate and a bishop. He nominated Fr. Freinademetz his assistant and the pro-curate. At that time the mission had 634 Christians, 40 catechists, and 2150 catechumens. Twelve priests, 1 deacon, and 4 religious brothers worked among them.

On the feast of the Assumption of Mary, August 15, 1885, Fr. Joseph professed perpetual vows in the Society of the Divine Word. In September 1894 Bp. Anzer transferred Fr. Freinademetz to the new mission station in Wangchuang, where he had worked in 1883-84. One year later, in 1895, he became the head of the newly established seminary.

In 1899 in China developed underground unions called “Great Swords” and “Fistfighters”, known as “the Boxers”. They were known for their hostile attitude toward foreigners and everything what was modern or brought from the West. The Chinese governor of Shantung tried to protect his province from the Boxers. Nonetheless he eventually ordered the foreigners to seek shelter in the harbor cities. Fr. Freinademetz agreed to escape to Tsingtao only after repeated warnings.

In the middle of 1900 Fr. Arnold Janssen appointed Fr. Joseph the Provincial of Southern Shantung. That new position made him stay at the desk.

Fr. Josef Freinademetz died on January 28,1908, in Taikia, wherfreinademetze he was buried on February 1. His body was laid to rest at the 12th station of the Way of the Cross in the missionary cemetery.

On October 19, 1975, Fr. Joseph Freinademetz was beatified along with the Founder of the Society, Arnold Janssen. Pope John Paul II conducted their joint canonization on October 5, 2003, in Rome.