Who was Adolph Kolping?
(1813 - 1865)
Pioneer in the social reformation, significant Catholic publicist and down-to-earth chaplain – Adolph Kolping was all that. Up until today he has been known for being an “apprentice father”; his example lives on in more than 60 countries all over the world.
As the fourth child of a shepherd in Kerpen, close to Cologne, Kolping had a humble upbringing. After being trained as a shoemaker and his certification exam Kolping worked ten years as a shoemaker. Experiencing the inhumane circumstances that most handymen had to work in, Kolping decided to restructure his life.
Priest and Apprentice Father
At the age of 23 he decided to go to grammar school in order to become a priest. On 13th April 1845, he was ordained as priest at the Minorites Church in Cologne. His life as a vicar led him to Wuppertal where he was introduced to Johann Georg Breuer's apprentice association. In June 1847 Kolping was appointed praeses of the association and experienced how the community gave young journeymen, who were far away from home, support, companionship and religious stability.
The Kolping Idea and Its Repercussions
Kolping was determined to carry on this idea and returned to Cologne to do so. He founded the Cologne journeymen association in 1849. On 1st January 1850 the association already had 550 members and soon similar communities were founded in other cities.
Up to his death on 4th December 1865, more than 400 journeymen associations were founded in Germany and all over Europe.
Adolph Kolping is therefore initiator of the catholic social movement and key pioneer of the Catholic social teaching.
In 1991 Adolph Kolping was beatified by Pope John Paul II.
He was a contemporary of bl. Anton Martin Slomšek, st. Don Bosco, St. Anthony Mary Klar and others. Sv. Father Janez Pavel II. appointed him as a precursor of the social doctrine of the Church. Today regarded as the apostle of workers.
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