About Adolph Kolping
The International Kolping Society was founded by Adolph Kolping as a Catholic, educational and action-oriented organization. He was born on December 8, 1813, in Kerpen, a small village not far from Cologne. His Father, Peter Kolping, was a shepherd for a well-to-do farmer. In school Adolph Kolping proved an able student, but because the family was poor he was unable to further his education. He took up an apprenticeship as a shoemaker, but his desire for higher education never ceased. At the age of 23, after working for ten years as a shoemaker, he entered secondary school. Adolph had been a sickly child and continues to suffer from poor health. Yet despite this fact, he managed to complete his education in record time.
It was Adolph Kolping’s wish to become a priest. During his secondary school years he was able to realize his vocation and what was to be his role in life. In the summer of 1841, he began his studies in theology at the University of Munich. As his father died the night before his ordination, the joyous day that was to be shared by father and son was instead one of sadness. On April 13, 1845, Adolph Kolping was ordained in the Minorite Church in Cologne.
On his first assignment in Elberfeld he met Gragor Breuer, a school teacher who had set up an organization for journeymen. In 1847, Father Kolping was elected Praeses of this association. He had intended to lead an academic life, but his work with the journeymen made him realize that God had called him to devote his life and efforts to the young people and their organization.
A transfer to Cologne in 1849 enabled him to enlarge the journeymen’s organization. As rector of the cathedral, Father Kolping had more time to devote to travel and writing articles, which gained him recognition as a writer and journalist. Through his example and efforts the journeymen’s organization grew. By 1865, over 400 local groups of the journeymen’s organization had been established and were functioning throughout Europe and in America.
In 1862, Father Kolping was placed in charge of the Minorite Church. His devotion to his calling and his determination to further his work caused him to neglect his health, a factor which may have contributed to his early death, at the age of 51, on December 4, 1865. Father Adolph Kolping was laid to rest in the Minorite Church, a church he had saved from demolition.
His legacy to us is his life’s work, his ideals and goals, but most important, his own example in recognizing his vocation, in making a personal commitment to his calling and carrying it to fulfilment. No obstacles are too great to overcome if we have faith, work hard and are willing to make sacrifices.
On August 8, 1906 the Archbishop of Vienna, Anton Joseph Cardinal Gruscha, a long time friend and confidant of Kolping, took the first step towards the canonization of Father Kolping. He handed a detailed petition to the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Fischer, for the initiation of the beatification process. The circumstances of the times – both political and religious – did not permit the process to continue. After the Second World War these efforts were resumed and finally, on January 22, 1991, Pope John Paul II signed the documents for his beatification. The beatification ceremony took place in Rome on October 27, 1991.
During his visit to Germany in 1980, Pope John Paul II visited Adolph Kolping’s tomb in the Minorite Church in Cologne. Referring to the significance of the blessed and the saints in our lives, he said:”We need models like Adolph Kolping in today’s Church.” These words of our Holy Father express precisely the purpose of the beatification of Adolph Kolping.