South Tyrol’s first saint was born in Oies in Badia: His birthplace can still be visited there today.
Josef Freinademetz, Ujöp in Ladin and Giuseppe in Italian, was born on April 15, 1852 in a small house that belonged to his father. At the age of 23, he was ordained a priest, and 4 years later went to China as a missionary. The first years were marked by gruelling work in establishing the first Christian parishes: The Province of South Shantung, where he lived and worked, had only 158 baptised people among 12 million inhabitants in 1881. He was never to return: Shèng Fú Ruòsè, as Father Freinademetz was called in China, died of typhus in China on January 28, 1908. He was also buried there, in Daizhuang in the city of Jining under the 12th station of the Way of the Cross.
Father Freinademetz was beatified by Pope Paul VI in Rome on October 19, 1975, followed by his canonisation by Pope John Paul II on October 5, 2003. Today, the hamlet of Oies, situated at about 1,500 m a.s.l. in Alta Badia, is a much-visited place of pilgrimage, especially in the warmer months: Right in the middle is the 250-year-old birthplace of the missionary. It has been owned by the Society of the Divine Word since the 1960s.
The house where Saint Freinademetz was born is open to the public all year round: His room contains mementos such as Chinese clothes or handwritten letters, and there is a small chapel on the ground floor. The relic consists of St. Freinademetz's hair, which has been kept by the maid since the day of the missionary's departure. A chapel was also built next to the house, where pilgrims can ask God for the saint's intercession. Between the birthplace and the church there is a wayside shrine showing the saint in life-size. And how to reach the birthplace? From Badia it is another 2 km up the hill to the hamlet of Oies (accessible via the Via Crucis P. J. Freinademetz).
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