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Saint Joseph Freinademetz – do you want to meet him?

Author: Dariusz S. Pielak, SVD
Subject: Joseph Freinademetz
Language: English, Spanish
Publisher: VivatDeus.org
Year: 2025
Portrait of Joseph Freinademetz (painting)
Portrait of Joseph Freinademetz (painting)

I would like to share with you a personal experience of my approach to our main saints: Saint Arnold Janssen and Saint Joseph Freinademetz, paying more attention to the second of them.

To tell the truth, for a long time I had not quite captured many moments in the history of Saint Arnold Janssen, and much less of Saint Joseph Freinademetz. I am of Polish origin and, on the one hand, when I began my training, we did not have enough materials and then perhaps I lacked enthusiasm to learn more about the history of our saints.

But there is something deeper. Their stories just didn’t get to me. This all began to change in 2015, when, thanks to a presentation by Fr. Jurgen Ommerborn, SVD, I realized the importance for Saint Arnold of the commitment to the Apostleship of Prayer (to read more about this topic: https ://vivatdeus.org/es/library/blog0038).


Something similar happened to me with the story of Saint Joseph Freinademetz. On the one hand, it seemed to me that I knew a lot about him. I knew that he was born in Tyrol, that he was a very promising priest in his diocese, but he chose to be a missionary. I knew that he entered the Society of the Divine Word in 1878 and the following year he went to China, where he worked with great success, but also with many difficulties until the day of his death on January 28, 1908. However, I was missing a more detailed picture of his life and work. For example, what was the secret to his evangelizing success in China? What was life like in China back then? How did he manage to connect with people? My many questions to assemble a minimal picture of the mission of our saint left me unsatisfied.

A simple and effective answer came to me when I read the book “Man of the Mountain” (unfortunately, the book has not yet been translated into Spanish). It is a biographical book about the life and mission of Saint Joseph Freinademetz, that was written by a Divine Word Missionary, Fr. Edward J. Edwards, who was well known as the author of religious-themed novels. In the 50s and 60s of the last century, his books sold in hundreds of thousands of copies and one of them even served as a script for a film project with the famous actor Gregory Peck. Unfortunately, the project was never carried out.

Fr. Edwards worked in China in the 1930s, so he knew the context of Fr. José Freinademetz’s mission very well. This knowledge is clearly seen in his descriptions of people, their reactions, the landscapes and the local customs, as well as thermal sensations and distances. All this is not the result of a fantasy or analysis of the sources as the author himself often passed through the same places and experienced the same challenges as our holy missionary. Also the memory of Fr. Freinademetz’s passage through the lands of the Chinese province of Shandong was still very fresh, since the author arrived in China barely 20 years after the death of Fr. Freinademetz.

This important book is available on our website in PDF format. It seems important to me to recommend it on this date of the commemoration of Saint Joseph Freinademetz.



Dariusz Pielak, SVD
Dariusz Pielak, SVD

Dariusz Pielak born on 30.03.1965 in Poland. In 1985 he joined the Society of the Divine Word. During the seminary he did the experience of OTP in Argentina in a community of life inserted in popular environments of Greater Buenos Aires. After finishing the seminary he worked in Spain and did a licentiate in biblical theology there. Since 2003 he has been working in Russia teaching at the seminary and attending the parish of St. Olga in Moscow. He also devotes himself to deepen the themes related to the spiritual history of Arnold Janssen.

One Response

  1. I lived off and on for about 16 years in South China and made an attempt for a pilgrimage in October 2019, starting in Shenzhen, Guangdong, Zhanjiang Guangdong, Guilin Guangxi, Wuhan (at start on Wuhan Virus), Fushou Futian and back to Shenzhen and to Texas. Will make a better pilgrimage when China really opens. I attended Central Catholic High School in San Antonio, TX, 57 to 61.
    I had a math teacher, Bro Janssen, who looks exactly like St Janssen. Do you have info on family tree?

    God Bless

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