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The Musical about St. Joseph Freiandanermetz, SVD

By Our Own Correspondent

Hong Kong, 6 October 2019 -- While we pray for the people and Salesian Family in Hong Kong, in this Extraordinary missionary month we remember the only canonized Saint who lived in Hong Kong, an outstanding SVD (Verbite) missionary in China, who was canonized on 5 October 2003 by St. John Paul II.

Saint Joseph Freinademetz was born on 15 April 1852 in Oies, a small village of five houses in the Dolomites, northern Italy's South Tyrol. He learned from his family to have a simple and strong faith. During his theological studies at the Major Seminary in Bressanone, he began to think seriously about foreign missions. He was ordained a priest on 25 July 1875. Two years after his ordination, he got in touch with Fr Arnold Janssen, founder of a missionary congregation, officially called the "Society of the Divine Word (SVD)." With the permission of his bishop, Joseph entered the missionary house at Steyl in August 1878, and the following year he received the missionary cross, together with another Verbite missionary, Father John Baptist Anzer, and left for China. Five weeks later they landed in Hong Kong where they remained for two years preparing for their assigned mission in South Shandung, a province of China that had 12 million inhabitants and only 158 baptized Catholics at that time.

They were hard years marked by long and difficult journeys, assaults by robbers, and an arduous job forming the first Christian communities. As soon as he was able to build a community that could stand on its own, the order came from the Bishops to leave everything and start again in another place. Joseph soon understood the importance of the laity as catechists for initial evangelization. He devoted much effort to their formation and prepared a catechetical manual in Chinese for them. At the same time, together with his fellow missionary Fr Anzer who had become a bishop, he committed himself to the spiritual preparation and ongoing formation of Chinese priests and other missionaries.

His whole life was marked by the effort to become Chinese among the Chinese, so much so that he wrote to his family members: "I love China and the Chinese; I want to die among them, and among them be buried." In 1898, the continuous work and many hardships took a toll on him. His larynx became diseased and, showing the early symptoms of tuberculosis, the Bishop and his confreres insisted on him spending some time in Japan with the hope of recovering his health. He returned to China, regained some strength, but was not completely healed.

When the Bishop had to travel to Europe in 1907, Father Freinademetz took over the administration of the diocese. During this period, a typhus epidemic broke out. Joseph, being a good shepherd, gave his tireless assistance until he became ill himself. He immediately returned to Taikia, the seat of the diocese, where he died on 28 January 1908. He was buried under the twelfth station of the Stations of the Cross and his tomb soon became a point of reference and pilgrimage for Christians.

Father Freinademetz was able to discover and deeply love the greatness of the culture of the people to whom he had been sent. He dedicated his life to proclaiming the Gospel, the message of God's love for humanity, and incarnating this love in the communion of the Chinese Christian communities. He animated these communities by encouraging them to be open to solidarity with the rest of the Chinese people. His example led many Chinese people to become missionaries among their own people, such as catechists, religious men and women and priests. His whole life was an expression of what was one of his key-words: "The language that everyone understands is love."




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