The canonization of
Arnold Janssen and Joseph Freinademetz:
Arnold Janssen Secretariado STEYL
Their Message for Our Times
“Canonization” is not only for the recognition of
individual holiness, nor is it only to present a person as an intercessor
before God. Canonization proposes a number of virtues that Christians
should emulate, based on the life witness of a specific person.
Arnold Janssen and Joseph Freinademetz remind us of the fundamental
identity and mission of the Church: we are a community of Jesus’
disciples, united in his love and sent by him to all peoples. Every local
church must look beyond its own needs, urgent though they may be, so as to
discover and respond to the most profound needs and aspirations of peoples
of all cultures and races. The Church must be a community that extends an
open armed welcome to all people, building a unity that protects and
appreciates the richness of diversity.
The lives of Arnold
and Joseph give expression to Jesus’ vision: a Kingdom where all peoples
and cultures reach the fullness of life in the loving embrace of God. As
sons and daughters of the God of love, we recognise ourselves as brothers
and sisters in a new reality that challenges us to overcome the obstacles
that we encounter in our daily journey towards God’s reign of love:
racism, xenophobia, fear of other religious ways, lack of social
solidarity, and a lukewarm or nonexistent faith.
Arnold Janssen, both personally and as a German citizen, felt responsible
for his brothers and sisters who lived in the remotest corners of the
world. Though he never left Europe, he dedicated his life to them. When he
found it necessary he renounced his German citizenship so as to cross
frontiers that were otherwise closed to him. And because the Kingdom
transcends the limits of nationalities, cultures and races, he soon
transformed his “German” foundation into an international community. In
this way legitimate differences could not only be respected but also
valued as a witness to the presence of God’s love. Arnold insisted that
missionaries be educated in the social sciences so that they could
systematically study the cultures and languages of other nations and so be
able to appreciate the cultural richness of the people with whom they
would work. A notable outcome of this concern was the establishment in
1906 of the Anthropos Journal.
Joseph Freinademetz once
wrote that “not even for 3000 coronas am I prepared to leave country
and friends so as to relocate myself forever in a new world.” But love
for Jesus and for all of God’s people motivated him to do exactly that. He
left country, family, friends, culture and language, to go to China, a
world that was totally new to him. It was a difficult challenge. Struggles
with the language and the new way of life provoked in him a “culture
shock” where everything seemed dark and depressing. This same experience
afflicts almost all those who have to emigrate and put down roots in a new
reality. But he was able to respond to the challenge. Though he never
forgot the mountains that surrounded his native valley, he opted to become
Chinese among the Chinese, even writing: “ I love China and the Chinese; I
want to die among them and to be laid to rest among them”… “ I want to
continue being Chinese even in heaven”. And so it turned out… There is a
certain irony in the fact that the vicissitudes of history erased all
trace of his tomb. It is now entirely impossible to separate him from
In both Arnold and Joseph one finds a deep love for
the Word of God. In both there was an intense passion to be instruments of
God’s will. And in both, one finds a living testimony that the Kingdom is
open to all, no matter what the race, culture or language or way of life…
Their openness was also able to include all, seeing in legitimate
differences a source of enrichment, even in spite of the difficulties that
can sometimes result.
Their lives do have something to say
to us today. We live in a multicultural and multireligious world that
compels people from the farthest ends of the earth to learn to live
together side-by-side. If Arnold and Joseph were able to do it, why can’t
Arnold Janssen – Father, Leader and Founder
Arnold Janssen was born on November 5th, 1837 in the
German town of Goch – very close to the border with the Netherlands. His
parents were Gerhard and Anna Katharina Janssen. Arnold was the second of
11 children; however, three of them died at a very young age.
His parents had a very deep faith. Daily prayer and daily work had been
completely integrated into the life of the Janssen Family. For Mother Anna
Katharina there was no question that she would attend Holy Mass daily.
Arnold’s parents practised the words of St. Paul who said: Pray always;
and so Arnold was brought up and formed in the spirit of prayer. It does
not come as a surprise then that as a high school student of about 13 or
14 years he composed a long evening prayer which was not only prayed in
his own family, but in other families as well.
childhood, Arnold Janssen’s desire had been to become a priest; however he
did not like to become a priest who would spend all his life working in a
parish; he wanted to be a priest and a teacher and his favourite subjects
were mathematics and natural sciences. On August 15th, 1861 he was
ordained a priest in the Cathedral of the German town of Münster ; and
before that he had passed his exams as a high school teacher.
After his ordination his bishop sent him to the town of Bocholt, and from
1861-1873 he taught at the High School there. His students liked best his
natural science lessons. He also helped the priests in the parish in
Bocholt whenever his help was needed.
While in Bocholt
Arnold Janssen joined the international “Apostolate of Prayer in union
with the Sacred Heart of Jesus.” This Apostolate of Prayer originated in
France and from there it had spread all over Europe. In the service of
this apostolate he discovered his own apostolic and missionary vocation.
He became an Apostle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and his motto was: May
the Sacred Heart of Jesus live in the hearts of all people! The wish to
work exclusively for the mission of the church grew stronger and stronger,
and finally he quit teaching in 1873 and moved to the town of Kempen.
There he became chaplain at a convent of nuns who also ran schools for
girls. He celebrated Mass for the nuns and helped to teach in the girls’
high school whenever his help was needed. Otherwise, in Kempen he was free
to dedicate himself completely to the mission of the church in non –
Christian overseas countries. The very first thing he did was to found a
mission magazine, of which the first issue was published in January 1874.
Its name was “Kleiner Herz-Jesu-Bote“, that is the “Little Messenger of
the Sacred Heart of Jesus”.
The more he occupied himself
with the missionary work of the church the more he became painfully aware
of the fact that the Catholics in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands had
no mission house to train their own missionaries and send them overseas
whereas other countries like France, Italy, England and even the
Protestants in Germany had such mission houses After he had met several
times the visiting Bishop Raimondi PIME of Hongkong (formerly one of the
first missionaries to Papua New Guinea) who had encouraged him to found
such a mission house himself, it gradually became clear to him that God
had in fact called him to found the mission house.
people whom he told about his decision to found a mission house did not
believe in his ability to undertake such a task. They rather ridiculed
him. That, however, could not discourage him.
On the other
hand there were also those who encouraged him in his decision, like Bishop
Haneberg of Speyer. For a long time, so he wrote to Arnold Janssen, it had
been his personal wish that such a mission house should be built. Surely,
the Kulturkampf in Germany, that is the cultural war between mainly the
Prussian government and the Catholic Church during which the Catholic
Church was persecuted, caused grave problems to the church. However, that
persecution of the church must not stop the execution of such a plan as
Arnold Janssen had, but on the contrary, it must push it forward. The
strength of the Catholic faith must not show itself only in negative
remarks, but most of all in works built upon faith, the Bishop wrote.
Such words gave Arnold Janssen the courage to continue carrying out his
Still more than those good words, his own faith and
trust in God made him accept his new vocation. He himself once said:
“It necessarily belongs to God’s guidance that he reveals to us his
intentions only gradually. How else would we learn to walk before him in
the light of faith and unconditional trust?”
That meant for
him: as soon as he had come to the conviction that God wanted a particular
task to be done and that God wanted him to do it, with unshakable trust in
its successful outcome he developed a calm determination, for which there
were no insurmountable obstacles.
However, there was one
huge difficulty which stood in the way of founding the mission house in
Germany: it was the time of the already mentioned Kulturkampf in Germany.
We must keep in mind that Germany in those days was one nation made up of
different states which had their own governments to rule them. The most
powerful state within this nation was the State of Prussia. Prussia was
ruled by a king who at the same time was the Emperor / Kaiser of the whole
German nation. At that time he was Emperor Wilhelm II (after whom the
highest mountain of PNG is called Mt. Wilhelm). The Prime Minister or
Chancellor ( as the Germans say) of Prussia and at the same time of the
whole German nation was Otto von Bismarck (Bismarck Archipelago in East
New Britain!). The majority of the population of Prussia was Protestant
and so were the Emperor and Bismarck.
Bismarck got the
Prussian Parliament to issue laws which went very much against the
Catholic Church. Some of these laws became binding for the whole of the
German nation. There was for instance a law which expelled the Jesuits and
similar religious orders from Germany (like the Holy Spirit missionaries,
CSSp, who now also work in PNG). Nobody was allowed to start a new
religious order. Another law determined that priests could not be put in
charge of a parish unless the government had approved their appointment.
The appointment by the Bishop was not sufficient. There were still other
laws which were directed against the Catholic Church. Anybody who would go
against those laws would be severely punished, even with prison. The
Bishops opposed these laws and so some of them were imprisoned and even
deposed; yet they were not the only ones who had to suffer, but ordinary
priests and outspoken lay people as well. It is truly proper to say that
the Catholic Church was persecuted by the government. This time of
persecution is generally called the “Kulturkampf” or “Cultural War”.
Since it was forbidden to start new religious orders in Germany, Arnold
Janssen was unable to start his mission house there. So he looked to the
Netherlands where already many German religious orders had found refuge in
the Diocese of Roermond. Historically, the Diocese of Roermond had always
had close ties with Germany. For several hundred years the diocese
extended to towns which today belong to Germany (like the famous town of
Kevelaer; it is famous because of its chapel with a picture of Mary to
which every year thousands of Catholics from Germany and the Netherlands
make pilgrimages. Arnold Janssen used to go there frequently, since it was
very close to his home town of Goch.)
Arnold Janssen found
a house and a piece of land in the little village of STEYL near the towns
of Tegelen and Venlo (today Steyl is politically part of the city of Venlo).
On August 4th, 1875 he bought both the house and the land. Both were
situated next to the river Maas. The house was not a family house, but an
inn. Until a few years before Arnold Janssen came to Steyl, Steyl had been
an important trading place. Up to 20 small ships a day would anchor at the
Steyl wharf. Traders from neighbouring Germany would come and get the
goods from those ships to bring them to Germany and sell them there. They
would stay in that inn, waiting for the ships to come or simply to rest a
little or get a meal. But then trains were invented and carried all the
goods. So ships did not come any more to Steyl to discharge goods there
and that little inn lost all its customers. So when Arnold Janssen
searched for a house, the owner of the inn readily sold his house together
with the land to Arnold Janssen.
On September 8th, 1875 the new mission house was solemnly blessed and
opened and the old inn became the new and first German – Austrian – Dutch
mission house St. Michael, recruiting and training Germans, Austrians and
Dutch men to become overseas missionaries.
Steyl was the
first mission house which Arnold Janssen founded. In 1888 a house of
studies followed in Rome and in 1889 he founded a third mission house in
Austria, near the capital Vienna. In order to start that mission house he
was faced with a difficulty of a very different kind than when he had
planned to start the first mission house. Since it was to be a Higher
Education institution, that means a College in which Philosophy and
Theology were to be taught, the Austrian Government insisted that only an
Austrian citizen could start such an educational institution. Arnold
Janssen saw two possibilities to solve that problem: either he would
recall Fr. Josef Freinademetz from China, since he was an Austrian
citizen, or he himself would become an Austrian citizen; and that he did.
Near Vienna the little village of Goggendorf accepted Arnold Janssen as a
member of its community, and so he was able to become an Austrian citizen.
For that he had to give up his Prussian or German citizenship. Once he had
done that he was able to start the new mission house which he dedicated to
the archangel St. Gabriel.
As much as Arnold Janssen knew
himself in the service of the overseas mission work, he did not forget to
care for the Catholics in Europe. Therefore he allowed all the mission
houses to welcome lay men and women or diocesan priests for retreats. From
1877 to January 1909 when Arnold Janssen died, about 65 000 men and women
had come to Steyl alone to make their retreats there, that means almost
3000 a year!
To the care of Catholics in the German
speaking countries of Europe were dedicated also the magazines which he
published: first the “Kleiner Herz-Jesu-Bote” (that is the “Little
Messenger of the Sacred Heart of Jesus”) and then “Die Holy Stadt Gottes”
(that is “The Holy City of God”). According to Arnold Janssen’s plan, this
latter magazine should publish sound stories and interesting novels, high
quality engravings and drawings illustrating daily life as well as daily
and war events, in short, something of that colourful variety which seems
suitable to fill a bit of leisure time in a pleasant and instructive way,”
as he himself wrote. It was to serve the dissemination of beneficial
knowledge, in particular knowledge from that awe-inspiring “temple of God
which is nature” into which God placed us so that it would proclaim to us
God’s existence, His greatness and all his illustrious qualities. Last but
not least this magazine was to give religious knowledge. In short, this
magazine was to give solid general knowledge and formation to the Catholic
Arnold Janssen died in Steyl on January 15th, 1909.
By that time and under his guidance, from those tiny beginnings in Steyl
three missionary congregations had developed which worked in 14 countries
of Europe, Asia, Oceania, Latin America and the USA. They were the Society
of the Divine Word, in Latin Societas Verbi Divini – short SVD, the
Congregation of the Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit, in Latin
Congregatio Servarum Spiritus Sancti – in short SSpS, and the Congregation
of the Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration, in Latin
Congreatio Servarum Spiritus Sancti de Adoratione Perpertua – in short
At the time of his death Arnold Janssen was a
successful man. However, this success he did not attribute to himself. He
knew that he owed all his success to the grace of God for which he was
most grateful. On September 8th, 1875, at the blessing of the first
mission house in Steyl he had said: “If this house develops into something
big and great, we will thank the grace of God.”
than 10 000 male and female missionaries have Steyl as their place of
origin. They belong to more than 60 countries and work in 70 countries of
our world. Wherever in the world they may be, they honour Arnold Janssen
as their “Pater, Dux et Fundator” as we can read on his sarcophagus – the
iron coffin which contains his body – in the Lower Church in Steyl, and
those three words mean that they honour Arnold Janssen as their “Father,
Leader and Founder.” Their common spiritual home is Steyl; there they all
have their roots. The soil of Steyl therefore is holy soil to them – since
a holy man, a Saint, started there that holy work which they have
inherited, and on that soil of Steyl a Saint has found his final earthly
Already at the time of his death many people
were convinced that Arnold Janssen was a Saint.
news of Arnold Janssen’s death hundreds of condolence telegrams and
letters were received in Steyl. They all pointed out the same character
qualities of the founder: simplicity, humility, a spirit of hard work,
trust in God, piety and then those great achievements for the missions
with the visible blessing from God.
People from the
neighbouring villages and monasteries and convents came to see his corpse
for a last time. He was a holy man, many said.
Arnold Janssen’s close friends, the Franciscan Friar and Bishop Döbbing of
the Italian Diocese of Nepri-Sutri gave a very practical advice to Arnold
Janssen’s spiritual sons and daughters. He expressed his hope that Janssen
one day would be declared a Saint and he added: “Therefore it is only
right, to start early to collect everything that is related to this
It was a wise advice the bishop gave. For
all those things were needed once the procedures began which led to Arnold
Janssen’s beatification in 1975 and which led to his canonization on
October 5th, 2003.
Josef Freinademetz –
“I came to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it
already kindled” (Lk 12:49)
Josef Freinademetz was born on April 25th, 1852 in the
tiny hamlet of Oies in the Gadervalley of the South Tirol Alps. His
parents were Johann Matthias and Anna Maria Freinademetz. He was the
fourth of 13 children of which four died at a very early age. The hamlet
of Oies belonged to the parish of Abtei in the then Diocese of Brixen
(today Diocese of Bozen-Brixen). Freinademetz belonged to a very special
group of people, the Ladinians who have their own Ladinian language. At
the time of his birth South Tirol was part of Austria and therefore
Freinademetz was an Austrian citizen. He was very gifted in learning
languages: he spoke Ladinian, Italian, German, Latin, French and in China
he learned two Chinese languages.
Freinademetz’s father was
a farmer; to look after a farm in the Alps meant hard, very hard work.
That hard work never prevented the Freinademetz family from setting time
apart for prayer. Prayer and work just belonged together. During winter
time father Johann Matthias Freinademetz went to Mass every day, during
summer time he was not always able to attend Mass daily, but he tried to
do it as often as possible. In order to get to church he had to walk for
about 30 minutes.
His primary school Josef Freinademetz did
in Abtei; and there the language of instruction was Ladinian. His high
school he did in the big town of Brixen; there the language of instruction
was German which he had to learn first before he could attend high school.
After completing high school he joined the Major Seminary in order to
become a Diocesan priest and a year before he had finished his studies, he
was ordained priest on July 25th, 1875, by the Bishop of Brixen, Bishop
From 1876 on he was Assistant Priest in the parish
St. Martin in Turn, close to home.
ordained priest for service in the Diocese of Brixen. However, from his
high school days on he also wanted to become a missionary.
Once he heard in a sermon this Bible verse from the OT book of
“Children are begging for food that no
one will give them” (Lamentations 4:4). When he heard those words again
during Holy Week, he was struck by them and he told a friend: “Did you
hear what Jeremiah is lamenting about? The children beg for food. Those
are the poor pagan children. They beg for the food of truth; however,
there are only very few messengers of the faith, very few missionaries. If
only I could become such a messenger, a missionary!”
that time there was no place yet to train German speaking missionaries
where he could have fulfilled his wish. So he decided to pray first for
the grace of the missionary vocation.
He felt that his
prayers were heard when in January 1878 he read an article in the Diocesan
newspaper about the newly founded mission house in Steyl. With permission
of his Bishop, on February 28th, 1878, he wrote to Arnold Janssen in Steyl
applying for admission to the mission house in order to become a
missionary. Two weeks later he received the acceptance letter from Arnold
Janssen. On August 27th, 1878, Freinademetz finally arrived in Steyl to
begin his life as a missionary.
Together with the young Bavarian priest Johann Baptist Anzer he got the
mission appointment for China, but it should still take until March 3rd,
1879, that the two were able to leave Steyl and begin their journey to
China. Freinademetz first went home to say good bye to his parents and
relatives and friends, then he went on to Rome and from there to Ancona
where he and Anzer set out for China on March 15th, 1879. Being on the
ship he suddenly felt homesick and what he thought he described with these
words: “We are not any more on European soil. Strange thoughts cross my
mind: I have to leave home, friends, parents! At home I had already built
for myself a good and happy life. In my first years of my priestly life I
saw only roses blossoming for me: a circle of well meaning people and
friends surrounded me. And now I was to be pulled out of all that; in a
different world I should begin to search for new friends, to learn new
languages, in short, to start all over again. What have you done? – Yet:
What do you want to do? You want to save souls for heaven! And my wounded
heart was healed.”
On April 20, the ship arrived in
Hongkong. Two students from the local Major Seminary were waiting for
them. Freinademetz describes his feelings: “Silently praying the Te Deum,
our hearts beating with excitement, that is how we made our way through
the crowded streets of that big oriental city to the Bishop’s residence.
We had reached the end of our journey. Praised be the Lord for
To a friend at home in Abtei he wrote just
before the end of the journey, still on the ship: ‘I would have to tell
you a lot…. The conclusion I have arrived at is this: just don’t let us
care all that much about this evil world, let us rather seek to make daily
progress in the true science… in the love for the sacred heart, especially
through being one with him in his suffering’.
should be suffering, a lot of suffering.
and Anzer came ashore in Hongkong, China was full of tensions, and the
missionaries and their new Chinese Christians became victims of those
The Chinese are proud of their culture and
religion. Several hundred years before Freinademetz and Anzer had entered
China there had been Catholic Missionaries there. The Jesuit missionaries
Matteo Ricci and Johann Adam Schall von Bell and others like them were
very much liked by the Chinese Emperor and the educated people, for they
were first class scientists. Their way of inculturating the Christian
faith into the Chinese way of life was highly appreciated and quite a
number of people became Christians. However, the Vatican Congregation of
the Propagation of the Faith forbade their way of doing missionary work
through adaptation to the people’s customs and beliefs. Catholic Chinese
were not allowed to venerate the ancestors or to participate in the cult
of Confucius. The Chinese emperor interpreted that decision of the Vatican
as an insult of the Chinese people and their ancestors, and he in turn
forbade any missionary activity, and all missionaries were expelled.
During the 19th century the European countries led wars against China;
first the English fought the Chinese; the English wanted to import Opium
into China in order to pay with Opium for the tea which they exported from
China – something the Chinese refused. So it came to the Opium war which
lasted from 1840-1842 and in which the Chinese were defeated. From
1856-1860 there was a second war in which the English were joined by the
French and again the Chinese were defeated. They were then forced to pay
war compensation to England and France, to accept trade with opium as a
foreign medicine, to open a number of their harbours for trade with Europe
and to permit missionary work in the interior of China.
Chinese felt humiliated and hated all the foreigners, missionaries
included. Any foreigner was considered a “foreign devil”. Furthermore, the
non-Christian Chinese could not understand that the Chinese Christians
were forbidden to take part in the official veneration or cult of the
ancestors and Confucius, and that was a further reason that the
missionaries were hated.
Those Chinese who became
Christians had to experience that hate as well and even more than the
missionaries. Many of them lost their house, their belongings and even
Such was the situation in China when Josef
Freinademetz and Johann Baptist Anzer arrived there as the first
Missionaries of the newly founded mission house in Steyl, and this
situation overshadowed their whole life and work in China.
For two years Anzer and Freinademetz remained with Bishop Raimondi in the
Apostolic Vicariate of Hongkong. While Anzer was teaching in the Seminary,
Freinademetz spent those two years in a rural parish. He was like a
missionary ‘apprentice’. He learned the local language and changed his
looks: from now on he wore only Chinese clothes and had his head shaved,
with the exception of a few hair at the back of his head to which was
tightened a plait; later he had one made of his own hair.
However, that outward change did not mean an inner change and adaptation
to the Chinese people and their customs and beliefs. Before Freinademetz
made that adaptation he first went through a culture shock. His idea of
mission work had been completely different and so he was deeply
disappointed and discouraged by the reality and that in turn made him look
in a negative way at the Chinese and everything Chinese. If the
missionaries had no higher motives, so he said, they would take the next
ship and return to Europe.
Luckily, Freinademetz was able
to overcome his culture shock and- in so far as that is possible – he
became a Chinese to the Chinese.
In 1881 Anzer and
Freinademetz finished their missionary ‘apprenticeship’. Back in Rome
Arnold Janssen had been able to secure for his missionaries their own
mission territory. The Franciscans who looked after Shantung gave South -
Shantung to the missionaries from Steyl. Anzer was appointed
ecclesiastical Superior of this mission; after some years South -Shantung
was elevated to the rank of an Apostolic Vicariate and Anzer became its
first Bishop and Vicar Apostolic.
In March 1882
Freinademetz arrived in South - Shantung. Until his death in 1908 he was
to give a variety of services to the people and the church in South -
Shantung as well as his missionary order, the Society of the Divine Word:
he was a “wandering” missionary who moved from place to place, founding
new Christian communities and strengthening the old ones in their faith;
every time his bishop went overseas, he was the administrator of the
Apostolic Vicariate; he was Provincial Superior of the Society of the
Divine Word; in that latter position he represented the Superior General,
Arnold Janssen, in China and therefore he was his closest co-worker there.
Suffering was part of his missionary work: there were, for instance,
hostile attacks on his life by those who hated all foreigners or there was
the disappointment about people whom he had trusted and who had betrayed
his trust; in spite of that his love for the Chinese people grew and he
said: “Also in heaven I don’t want to be anything but a Chinese.”
In loving China and the Chinese he did not forget his home area of Tirol
and his country Austria. He kept up a keen interest in all the church and
political events back home. In his last years of life it gave him great
joy to be able to send a congratulatory message to the Austrian Emperor’s
envoy in Peking at the occasion of the Emperor’s birthday.
The first biography about Josef Freinademetz was written by Bishop
Augustinus Henninghaus SVD. First, he had been a fellow missionary of
Freinademetz, then his subject and then his superior once he had become
bishop. When Henninghaus was ordained bishop something beautiful happened
to Freinademetz. Ordinarily there are three bishops who ordain a new
bishop; however, one of those three who was to be co-consecrator of Bishop
Henninghaus had suddenly fallen ill and no other bishop could be found to
attend the ordination. So Fr. Freinademetz was asked to function as
co-consecrator on behalf of the sick Bishop, and he placed his hands on
the new Bishop.
Because of their close connection no one
knew Freinademetz as well as Bishop Henninghaus; and therefore his
characterisation of Freinademetz is particularly valuable. Bishop
‘He had a good grasp of things, a
faithful memory and a real talent for learning languages’. (His Chinese
was impeccable, a Chinese said.)
‘To save souls, to lead
them to the true faith, to a genuine Christian life, to sacrifice himself
completely, not to be afraid of hard work, in short to be a missionary
with heart and soul, that was his ideal. That is what it meant for him to
be a priest.’
Missionaries looked upon the Bishop as a
father and Freinademetz as a mother of the mission. Bishop Henninghaus
comments: ‘A mother’ in his mild, soul touching influence, in the loving
care for the true, religious well being of each individual, that he was
and that he became more and more for the whole mission, and in that way,
more than through anything else he did, he became a blessing for South -
Looking back at the outward development of the mission,
Bishop Henninghaus describes Freinademetz’s contribution:
‘We know how miserable the beginnings were that … Bishop Anzer and Fr.
Freinademetz found when they came to South - Shantung. How tremendously
this mission grew in the 26 years that Fr. Freinademetz worked here….!
Where in earlier times even the name of the Christian, Catholic religion
was completely unknown, there are now more than 1000 villages where houses
are dedicated to religious service, where a bell rings and calls for
prayer and where the sign of the cross is seen all over. Whereas in
earlier times missionaries were in an insulting manner driven out of all
the towns, in the meantime it had been possible to start a mission station
almost everywhere, and there were no more districts in which the Catholic
name had not been made known in some way or other.’
Freinademetz saw all this develop. It wasn’t only his work. However, in
one way or the other he had participated in it. In some places he had laid
the foundation himself and in any case, he had done his best to deepen and
sanctify all the activities of the mission. Like Moses on the mountain,
during long hours of prayer he had stood over his people protecting and
blessing them, in all their labours and in the dangers they faced he had
always gone ahead of them ready for sacrifice and undauntedly.
Particularly this vivid example showed what and how a good missionary
should be. And that makes his life so meaningful for South – Shantung and
perhaps for others as well.’
On January 28th, 1908. Josef
Freinademetz died in his residence as Provincial Superior, Taikia, of
typhoid. At that time, beside being Provincial Superior, he was also once
again the Administrator of the Vicariate Apostolic since Bishop
Henninghaus was in Germany.
Immediately after his death the
following message was sent to Superior General Arnold Janssen in Steyl:
‘A short while ago, at 18 hours our good Acting Apostolic Vicar died of
typhoid. … In his sickness he gave us a heroic example of patience. He did
not like to die, but he surrendered himself to God’s holy will’.
Arnold Janssen replied:
The Lord God has taken away from us
‘this second founder of the mission, this good and holy soul, who gained
so great and immortal merits in his work for South Shantung.’ ‘We
therefore may hope that his heavenly crown was prepared for him and that
the Lord has called him, to give to h is faithful servant the well-earned
rest and a beautiful place in his sublime kingdom. The more zealous, the
more selfless, the more self- sacrificial he worked, the more he will now
be filled with joy, but he will also be our intercessor at the heavenly
A Chinese Christian said: ‘I feel like having
lost my father and mother.’
A Holy Spirit Missionary
Sister in China wrote:
‘Already now we would like to
venerate our highly revered Fr. Superior Freinademetz as a Saint …The only
consolation for us poor orphans now is that we have an exceptionally good
intercessor; the future will prove that.’
Well, time has proven it: On October 5th, 2003 Josef.
Freinademetz was given to the whole world as a Saint.
Daniel Comboni –
Africans must be missionaries to Africans
On October 5th, 2003, a third great missionary was canonized: Daniel
Comboni. He and Arnold Janssen knew each other personally and Comboni
visited Janssen in Steyl. In his mission magazine, Der Kleine
Herz-Jesu-Bote – the Little Messenger of the Sacred Heart of Jesus –
Janssen frequently reported about Comboni and his work and most of what is
now said about Combini is taken from those articles; it is actually now
Janssen talking about Comboni.
Daniel Comboni was born on
March 15th, 1831 in Limone, Italy. He joined the Mazza Mission Institute
which had been founded by the Italian priest Don Mazza. 1854 he was
ordained a priest.
The Mazza Mission Institute sent its
missionaries to the Apostolic Vicariate of Central Africa which had been
founded in 1846. Many of the missionaries got sick and died. Comboni went
to the Sudan in 1858. But a year later he had to return to Italy because
of sickness. The loss of so many missionary lives led to a halt in the
missionary activity in Central Africa. Comboni, however, never gave up his
wish to work as a missionary in Africa.
In Rome, in 1864
Margaretha Maria Alacoque was beatified who was a great admirer of the
Sacred Heart and to whom Jesus had appeared and given the task of
spreading the veneration of his Sacred Heart. Comboni was present at the
beatification ceremony and during that ceremony he felt a mighty urge to
work for the Christianisation of Africa. He also became aware of the plan
according to which missionary work should proceed. It was a two – point
In Africa houses should be built for Europeans and
indigenous Africans in which indigenous African missionaries should be
trained to be missionaries for their own people. Africans must be
missionaries to Africans!
In Europe colleges should be founded which would train the
personnel to run the training places in Africa.
From then on Comboni looked for support for his plan.
However, hardly anybody seemed to be interested in it due to the loss of
many missionary lives earlier on.
Therefore, on June 1rst,
1867, Comboni founded the Institute for the Mission in Nigrizia, as he
called Africa. It was to be a community of priests and lay brothers who
dedicated themselves to the evangelisation of Africa, that means they were
to train indigenous Africans to become missionaries to their own people.
The centre of this community was and is Verona in Italy; today this
community is called ‘Comboni missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus’,
in Latin Missionarii Comboni Cordis Jesu, in short MCCJ.
During the first Vatican Council Comboni wrote a petition on behalf of the
missionary work in Africa and asked the bishops gathered for the Council
to sign and support it. In a short and compelling form he requested the
Council to take effective measures for the conversion of Africa.
Comboni tirelessly travelled throughout Europe to win support for the
mission in Africa. He found such support in Cologne in Germany where there
already was an association which had as its goal the support of the
mission in Africa and it gave him generous financial aid. In South Tirol,
Bavaria, Belgium and England he found support as well.
Januray 1rst, 1872 Comboni founded a congregation of missionary sisters;
they also have their center in Verona. The main task of these sisters was
to train African women to evangelise Africa.
In 1872 the
Vatican Congregation for the Propagation of Faith was prepared to give new
life to the Apostolic Vicariate of Central Africa and entrusted it to
Comboni’s congregation; he himself was appointed head of the mission.
Comboni chose the town of Khatoum in Sudan as the centre of his missionary
In that mission area entrusted to Comboni the
slave trade flourished. Whenever Comboni met slaves he got them released
and gave them the chance to settle on a piece of land which he had bought.
So the former slaves could support themselves.
In 1877 Comboni was appointed Vicar Apostolic for Central Africa. On
August 15th,1877 he was ordained Bishop in Rome. On November 5th and 6th
of that year he visited Arnold Janssen in Steyl. It was during this visit
that he encouraged Arnold Janssen to start a congregation of missionary
sisters – which he eventually did, as we know.
The kind of
man Comboni was we get to know from some of his own sayings. Once he wrote
a letter thanking that Cologne association which supported him
financially. Towards the end of that letter he wrote:
for me and my missionaries, you may know, that with great joy in our
hearts we dedicate our lives to the well-being of this part of the world
which is still almost unknown and where there is so much misery, in order
to win it for Jesus Christ. Our sole program, which we want to carry out
with the help of God and with all the means of human prudence and wisdom,
is: Either the Africans or death. Aut Nigritia aut mors.’
When he arrived in Khartoum to take up his work as newly appointed head of
the Apostolic Vicariate of Central Africa, he told the people there:
‘I return to you to belong to you always and to dedicate myself forever to
work for your best.
Day and night, cold and rain will find
me always ready to be of service to your spiritual needs. Rich and poor,
Master and slave will always have equal access to my heart. Your well –
being will be mine as well, and your sufferings will be mine also. I want
to have everything in common with everyone of you, and the happiest day of
my life will be the one when I will be able to give my life for you.’
During his visit to Steyl Comboni told stories from his life. Arnold
‘How deeply touching were his stories about
the difficulties which he head encountered, about the misjudgements, the
slander and the unjust accusations which he had to suffer and likewise
about the mistrust which he had encountered on his thorny way. Because of
that his work will be built on a much stronger foundation." And then, at
the end Msgr. Comboni added:
'Sed confidete, cornua
Christi sunt fortiori quam cornua diaboli, that means, Be confident, the
horns of Christ are much stronger than the horns of the devil.’
Daniel Comboni died on October 10th, 1881, in Khartoum / Sudan.
In the June issue of his Kleiner Herz-Jesu-Bote (Little Messenger of the
Sacred Heart of Jesus) Arnold Janssen introduced Daniel Comboni to his
readers with these almost prophetic words:
‘The time has
come to say something about this missionary whose name probably will one
day still be mentioned with honour when many of those others will be
forgotten who now boast with their discoveries in Africa.’
How right Arnold Janssen was. On October 5th, 2003, Daniel Comboni’s name
was called with honour, when Pope John Paul II wrote his name into the
Book of the Saints and elevated him to the honour of the altars.
Arnold Janssen – Josef Freinademetz – Daniel Comboni
Three Soul – Mates
Arnold Janssen, Josef Freinademetz and Daniel Comboni was
canonized on the same day, that is October 5th, 2003; so these three men
have had the day of their canonization in common. However, they have more
in common than just the day of their canonization, as we will see shortly.
All three come from simple, deeply pious families.
three were born in the 19th century, and that was a very special century.
It was a century which saw great technical innovations and political
It was a century during which the church was hated
and persecuted in several parts of the world and during which the church
proved the strength of her faith in many different ways, not at least
through a new flourishing of missionary activity to which all three
contributed their share.
It was the century of the Sacred
Heart of Jesus, and the three of them were filled with a great love for
the Heart of Jesus and with an equally great love for the missionary work
of the church. Their love for the Sacred Heart enabled them to become
Apostles of the Sacred Heart and to sacrifice their lives for the
realisation of the wishes of the Sacred Heart within the missionary work
of the church. Like Jesus, so they accepted humiliation and ridicule out
of love for the people to whom they knew themselves sent.
The three of them expressed their love of the Sacred Heart in similar
ways: Arnold Janssen had the motto: Vivat cor Jesu in cordibus hominum –
May the Sacred Heart of Jesus live in the hearts of all people.
Josef Freinademetz and Daniel Comboni used to conclude their letters with
words like: ‘In Sanctissimo Corde’ oder ‘In Sanctissimo Corde Jesu’ – ‘in
the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, yours…’
Filled with the
love of the Sacred Heart Josef Freinademetz and Daniel Comboni were ready
to literally give up their lives in the service of the people entrusted to
In the beginning of the Boxer Revolution in China
Freinademetz as leader of the Mission was told by Chinese government
officials and by German Colonial officers to leave the mission together
with all of his missionaries and to find refuge in a secure place.
Freinademetz did not want to do that; how could he as leader of the
mission leave his people alone? He was determined to stay. He told his
fellow – missionaries: “You go! You are still young and strong and can
still work for the missions for many years to come. I am already
half-dead. Who cares, if I die? Why shouldn’t I sacrifice myself?” And he
did not leave, but remained with his Christians.
When Arnold Janssen heard about this he later wrote to Freinademetz:
‘You stood up to the danger of an almost certain death and you threw
yourself, so to speak, into the lion’s mouth in order to remain to the end
with your troubled children. .. You must have certainly believed that it
was the will of God for you to stay and you must have felt an
extraordinary urge of the Holy Spirit which enabled you to do so. I like
to join you in that belief. And therefore I congratulate you from the
bottom of my heart for what you did.’
Bishop Comboni was of
a similar mind. Once he said:
‘The cross is the royal way
leading to triumph. The Sacred Heart beat also for the Africans. The true
Apostle never ever gives way to the most difficult obstacles, the fiercest
objections and standing firm faces up to all kinds of difficulties and the
impact of the most furious storms; he walks on the way of martyrdom to
These words Arnold Janssen reported in his
magazine, the Kleiner Herz-Jesu-Bote (the Little Messenger of the Sacred
Heart of Jesus) and from that we may conclude that he agreed with them.
All what has been said so far tells us: Arnold Janssen, Joseph
Freinademetz and Daniel Comboni were of the same mind and heart, they were
Looking at the lives of these three men we
see that they were connected in a wonderful way.
before they knew of each other, one and the same priest made an impact on
the lives of Arnold Janssen and Josef Freinademetz, and that priest was
Fr. Malfatti S.J, the director of the ‘Apostolate of Prayer in union with
the Sacred Heart of Jesus’ for Germany and Austria-Hungary. Upon his
suggestion Arnold Janssen accepted the work of director of that Apostolate
of Prayer for the diocese of Münster. This very same Fr. Malfatti went
every year to Brixen to preach the annual retreat to the seminarians
there, and Freinademetz was one of them. It is likely that Fr. Malfatti
gave those retreats in the spirit of the Apostolate of Prayer – and so the
lives of Arnold Janssen and Josef Freinademetz were - through Fr. Malfatti
- touched by the spirit of the Apostolate of Prayer and that contributed
to them being ‘soul-mates’.
Arnold Janssen and Daniel
Comboni met each other in person. It can be assumed that while living in
Brixen Freinademetz may at least have heard of Comboni, and perhaps he may
have seen him as well. For one of Freinademetz’s teachers, the priest Dr.
Chrysostomus Mitterrutzner, had supported the mission in Central Africa
since 1850, and when Comboni and his priests and brothers took over that
mission, he was one of Comboni’s great supporters. Since Comboni travelled
a lot to visit his supporters, it is quite likely that he visited Brixen
Arnold Janssen’s acquaintance with Comboni goes
back to his years in Bocholt. At that time he collected quite a bit of
money for Comboni who in turn wrote to him frequently, and so gradually a
friendship developed between these two men who shared so many ideas and
ideals. Proof of that are the numerous articles about Comboni which Arnold
Janssen published in the Kleiner Herz-Jesu-Bote (Little Messenger of the
Sacred Heart of Jesus) from 1877 onwards and even after Comboni’s death
(from March to December 1883 he published one article on Comboni in every
issue of his magazine).
Unforgettable for Janssen was
Comboni’s visit to Steyl on November 5 and 6, 1877. The bishop was
surprised how much Steyl had developed in such a short time and he said to
Arnold Janssen in Latin:
“Non parvam vel mediocrem, sed
permagnam benedictionem Dei tu habuisti, crede mihi, scio de hac re.” That
means: “You haven’t had a small or mediocre, but a very great blessing
from God; you can believe me that, I know about that.”
As already said, this visit was unforgettable for Arnold Janssen, and
after Comboni’s death Janssen wrote in the Kleiner Herz-Jesu-Bote (Little
Messenger of the Sacred Heart of Jesus):
‘The writer of
these lines will never forget the impression which the personality of
Comboni made on him. The fire of enthusiasm which radiated like lightning
from the eyes of this apostolic man, the words which flowed so eloquently
from his lips, when he started to speak about the grand work of the
propagation of faith. All of that showed, what enthusiasm for the holy
faith and what energy lived in him. To these inner qualities came his
impressive, strong build; indeed, Msgr. Comboni was inch by inch a
missionary, a bishop, an Apostle.
Arnold Janssen as well. A sign of that is that he concluded some of his
letters to him with words like “Tuissimus Daniel Comboni”. ‘Tuissimus’ is
the superlative of ‘tuus’, which means ‘yours’.
Janssen admired in Daniel Comboni his – as he himself said – very simple,
modest nature and his wonderfully fiery spirit.
modest nature and a wonderfully fiery spirit was common to all three of
these Blessed and Holy men. Their heart was filled with the love of the
Sacred Heart of Jesus to all peoples and races, and they were one in the
wish: ‘Vivat Cor Jesu in Cordibus Hominum’ – May the Sacred Heart of
Jesus live in the hearts of all people!’
For that they
sacrificed their lives: Daniel Comboni died of a tropical fever aged 50
and Josef Freinademetz died of typhoid aged 56.
is God’s providence that these three ‘soul-mates’ who were canonized
together on October 5, 2003.
Arnold Janssen, Josef
Freinademetz and Daniel Comboni,
Pray for Us!