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St. Joseph Freinademetz, SVD

St. Joseph FreinademetzSt. Joseph Freinademetz, SVD, was born on April 15, 1852, the fourth child of Giovanmattia and Anna Maria Freinademetz. The family eked out a living on their poor and simple small farm as did their neighbors. Years later, the little farm house and quiet hamlet of Oies in the Gader Valley changed when Joseph Freinademetz, SVD, was beatified in 1975 by Pope Paul VI and then canonized a saint in the Roman Catholic Church on October 5, 2003, by Pope John Paul II in Rome.

Joseph entered the major seminary and was ordained a priest for the Brixon Diocese in 1875. His initial assignment was to be a teacher. But soon an article in the local diocesan newsletter about the new Mission House at Steyl, Holland, founded by Fr. Arnold Janssen caught his attention. Joseph went to visit the Mission House. The visit was enough to convince Joseph that this is where he could follow his vocation to be a missionary priest. He joined the group at Steyl in 1878. Barely a year later, Joseph received his “mission cross.” He had one more visit to his family to say goodbye for the last time. He would never return to his homeland again. He was to be a missionary in China. In 1881, the Mission House had received its own mission territory, the Province of Shandong. Joseph was so devoted to his mission that, except to recover from an illness, he never left Shandong.

Joseph had enculturated himself to China that he took on a form of dress similar to the local Chinese spiritual leaders. His most frequent words were: “I would like to be Chinese in heaven.” He truly loved the Chinese people with whom he had lived and worked. He was especially energized by the local clergy and catechists. He promoted the idea that they should become the leaders in the local Church. Decades later, Rome appointed the first Chinese bishops and also the first non-white Cardinal, Thomas Tien, SVD.

As so many missionaries have discovered, the grounding of their mission work is first supported by a strong personal prayer life. Joseph had promoted this amongst the clergy along with the words: “Do you imagine you can become holy without meditation, something no saint was able to do? Without meditation life is lost.” He said his daily Mass and prayed his Divine Office with the same intense dedication as he did with his missionary work. Joseph had unwavering hope and belief in the power of God and the sacraments. During such difficult times as the “Boxer Rebellion” in which two young Divine Word Missionaries were martyred, he remained at his mission post. Well before his death, the Chinese people and others with whom he worked recognized him as a saintly man for his humility, for his firm yet gentle approach to work, and for his total love of the people. Towards the end of his all-too-few years, he was appointed Provincial for the Society of the Divine Word, a post he held until his death from tuberculosis in 1908 at age 46. (Source: http://www.svdvocations.org/Missionaries/History/St--Joseph-Freinademetz.aspx )