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Hong Kong

Catholic musical tells life of China missionary saint

The musical telling of St. Joseph Freinademetz's life can now be watched online reporter reporter

Updated: July 05, 2019 02:54 AM GMT
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Catholic musical tells life of China missionary saint

A scene from a musical depicting the missionary history of St. Joseph Freinadzmetz from Austria. (Photo supplied)

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A video of a musical depicting the history of the first saint to have been based in Hong Kong is now available online with new subtitles in a bid to reach a broader audience.

The video of St. Joseph Freinademetz: The First Saint to Ever Serve in Hong Kong can now be watched via YouTube.

The musical is about the life of the Austrian priest (1852-1907), a Society of the Divine Word missionary in China who believed that "love is the only language that everyone understands."

The musical telling of St. Freinademetz’s life was first performed in April last year with more than 180 actors and support staff. The play was later recorded by Salt and Light Television in Canada.


The Society of the Divine Word made the musical to reflect the spirit of St. Freinademetz’s mission in China. (Photo supplied)

Sung in Cantonese, the version shown below is subtitled with traditional Chinese characters and English. There are other language subtitle versions also available including Japanese, Korean and German on the St. Joseph Freinademetz the Musical YouTube page.

Divine Word Father Tan Leitao, producer of the musical, told that the arduous subtitling task has finally been completed thanks to the support of many people.

He expressed particular gratitude for inspiration and assistance from the Austrian consulate in Hong Kong.

A scene from the musical first performed in April 2018. (Photo supplied)

The film was awarded an honorable mention in the 2019 Gabriel Awards conducted by the Catholic Press Association of Canada and the United States.

It was also given a Denali Award at the 2019 Alaska International Film Awards as well as being shortlisted in several other international film festivals.

The production team have now recorded the musical’s main theme songs in 20 different languages in keeping with the multilingual skills of St. Freinademetz himself.

The musical tells the story of missionary priest Joseph Freinademetz, who was declared a saint by St. Pope John Paul II in 2003.

St. Freinademetz was born in 1852 in Badia, then part of Austria but now in Italy, and was ordained in 1875. He was assigned to the community of San Martin de Tor, not far from his home.

During three years in San Martin, he always felt a calling to be a missionary, and in 1878, with the permission of his parents and his bishop, he moved to the Society of the Divine Word, where he received training as a missionary.

In 1879, he and friend Johann Baptist von Anzer boarded a ship to Hong Kong, where he arrived five weeks later.

St. Freinademetz was based in Sai Kung until 1880 and set up a chapel on the island of Yim Tin Tsai in 1879. He learned Cantonese and Hakka dialects and dressed like a Chinese. 


St. Joseph Freinademetz spent 29 years in China as a missionary. (File image)

In 1881, he moved to Lunan Diocese of Shandong province in northeast China, where he was very active in the education of Chinese laymen and priests and wrote a catechism in Chinese.

In 1908, there was an outbreak of typhus, but he helped wherever he could until he himself became infected and died at the age of 56 in Shandong, where he was buried.

St. Freinademetz was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1975 and declared a saint by Pope St. John Paul II on Oct. 5, 2003.

Watch the full the musical St. Joseph Freinademetz: The First Saint to Ever Serve in Hong Kong below.

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