Adolph Kolping

The Apprentice Father

Who was Adolph Kolping?

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.

Adolph Kolping, educator and apprentice father
The founder of the Kolping House, Adolph Kolping

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.

Kolping the Publicist

Kolping's ideas and visions find expression in various writings. Adolph Kolping was probably the first Catholic priest in 19th century Germany, who understood and used the press as an instrument for contemporary pastoral care. He realised that Catholic interests and positions were underrepresented in newspapers and magazines at the time. That is why he continuously pointed out how important it was from a Catholic point of view to publish good Christian articles and to spread the word via the press.

“The German Catholics shall endeavour to be represented in the press in the most dignified way, despite … partly bitter experiences they shall strive to also found their own, independent and proficient newspapers” - Adolph Kolping.

In 1849 Kolping published the annual Catholic almanac for the million with 14,000 copies.

Since 1854 Adolph Kolping was a committed publisher and editor for the “Rheinischen Volksblätter”. With 16 pages for more than 6,000 subscribers he reached around 30,000 readers each week.

Kolping's journalistic work aimed to educate people of his time in a Christian way, to advertise and spread the word about the journeymen association and, last but not least, to fund his varied works as a priest and praeses for the association.

Adolph Kolping started the more than 160 year old idea that lives on in the Kolping Houses in more than 61 countries all over the world today and is continued in so many ways. Various women and men have been inspired and motivated by the faith and life example of Adolph Kolping.

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