“Adolph Kolping gathered skilled workers and factory laborers together. Thus he overcame their isolation and defeatism. A faith society gave them the strength to go out into their everyday lives as Christ’s witnesses before God and the world. To come together, to become strengthened in the assembly, and thus to scatter again is and still remains our duty today. We are not Christians for ourselves alone, but always for others too” (Pope John Paul II, beatification homily).
Adolph Kolping was born the son of a German shepherd in 1813. As a teenager, he was apprenticed to a shoemaker and worked for 10 years at this trade. He had always been a good student, with dreams of continuing his education, and at the age of 23 he began secondary school. At 28, he entered the seminary and was ordained in 1845.
Kolping had expected to live the life of an academic, but during his first assignment he met school teacher Gragor Breuer, founder of an organization for journeymen. Influenced by Breuer, he became involved in ministering to journeymen, young men who worked in the newly industrializing cities of Germany. He served as the second president of the Catholic Association of Journeymen with the intent of providing social and religious support to these men. Through the remaining years of his life, he worked to coordinate, unite and support associations of journeymen throughout Germany, forming family-like supportive communities.
Today his work continues through the International Kolping Society, with about 5,000 Kolping families in over 60 countries around the world, including the United States. Together, members of Kolping families help each other live as Christians in professions, marriage and families, Church and society, and work to improve and humanize the world in which they live.