Lagura: The man who loved the Chinese people

Fr. Flor Lagura SVD
·1 min read

FROM the lovely and cool town of Oies, nestled on the lovely Alps, came a man named, Josef Freinademetz, that is, “Joseph, the man from half-way -- up-the-mountain.”

Inspired by his poor but hard-working and deeply Catholic parents, the young Josef worked for some families for his studies. Sometimes, he had to beg for food.

As a student, he actively served the parish at mass, even singing in the choir. Noticing his diligence and natural piety, people offered financial help when the young Josef indicated his vocation for the priesthood. Ordained on July 25, 1875, he first served as an assistant parish priest. However, his dream of doing more as a missionary led him to join a recently established missionary religious order: the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) whose founder, Fr. Arnold Janssen, warmly welcomed him. After further training, Fr. Freinademetz, together with Fr. Anser, went as missionaries to the great land of China.

The first months in South Shantung were not easy. A stranger among people speaking a different language, and, missing his lovely, orderly and cool Alpine home, he felt bitterly lonely. The Chinese “Boxer Rebellion” spelled bigger trouble.

Once, as he and a male catechist passed through a marketplace, ruffians grabbed and threw them into a cesspool filled with unspeakable dirt. Fortunately, local policemen rescued them.

As he wiped off the dirt from himself and saw his catechist’s face, he suddenly burst out laughing. After that experience, he came to appreciate, even love the Chinese people. Shortly before he died, he said, “The language that all can understand is the language of love.”

On October 5, 2003, the Church joyfully declared two new saints: St. Joseph Freinademetz and St. Arnold Janssen.