Adolph Kolping

The story about his life

Adolph Kolping was born on December 8th 1813 in Kerpen near Cologne, Germany. As the fourth child of a shepherd, he grew up in very modest living conditions, which provided him no opportunity to obtain a higher education despite his aptitude and inclinations. Adolph Kolping attended elementary school and then went on to learn the craft of shoemaking, which he carried out a total of 10 years. During this time, he was dissatisfied with the circumstances of his life. So, at the age of 23 he dared an impelling step:

Kolping gave up his profession and became a student once again at the Marzellen High School in Cologne. He completed school with tremendous vigor and in the shortest possible time. Illness and the need to take care of his own livelihood proved a heavy burden.  During these exhausting times, the desire to study to become a priest evolved. During the summer of 1841 he began his theological studies in Munich, which he later continued at the Bonn University and in a Cologne seminary. Adolph Kolping received his priestly ordination on April 13 in 1845 in the Cologne Minorite Church.

Parish chaplain in Elberfeld, Germany

Kolping received his first position as chaplain in 1845 in Elberfeld. This is where he became acquainted with a Catholic organisation for journeymen, which had been founded a short time before in 1846 under the active guidance of the teacher Johann Gregor Breuer. In 1847 the organisation elected Kolping as Praeses of the association. This young men's association (later renamed Catholic Journeymen's Association) brought young people together, mostly journeymen, for social activities or for common education purposes. Originally, Kolping wanted to be active in the scholarly research field, but he recognized his true calling in the work with and for these young people. Since he himself had been a journeyman for many years, he was familiar with the situation of these people and henceforth devoted himself primarily to this matter.

Kolping - an author and writer of the people

In the year 1849 Kolping came to Cologne. As cathedral vicar, he had time to travel and write about the Catholic journeymen's association, thus spreading the idea of self-help and community with exemplary dedication. In addition, he acquired wide recognition as a publicist and popular writer of the people in a broad Catholic community. Kolping's work was successful. After the first journalistic activities as a student, Adolph Kolping began his regular journalistic work when he became head of the "Rheinischen Kirchenblattes" newspaper editing department at the beginning of the year 1850. On April 1st, 1854 he left the newspaper to act as editor and publisher of his own "Rheinischen Volksblätter" newspaper, which he supervised until his death in 1865.

The venture expands

In the few years that were still granted him, the endeavor expanded continuously. By 1865 there were already over 400 journeymen's associations in many European countries and overseas. Kolping himself, as rector of the Cologne Minorite Church since 1862, took no account of his own health during his restless work in various fields. In 1850 he was appointed Apostolic Notary by the archbishop of Cologne, in 1862 he was declared papal confidential finance officer by Pope Pius IX.  Tireless efforts drained Adolph Kolping's health early on, not yet 52 years old he died on December 4th, 1865. Upon his own request, Adolph Kolping was buried in the Cologne Minorite Church (1866).



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