Kolping, Adolf, Bl.

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Pioneer German Catholic social leader; founder of the Kolping Societies (Gesellenvereine); b. Kerpen, near Cologne, Dec. 8, 1813; d. Cologne, Dec. 4, 1865. Kolping was the son of a shepherd, Peter Kolping, and Anna Maria Zurheyden. He apprenticed as a shoemaker. While working 12 hours a day he prepared himself for institutions of higher learning by teaching himself. He was graduated from the Marzellengymnasium at the age of 24, and then studied at the Universities of Munich and Bonn (184144). After his ordination at Cologne in 1845, he was assigned to the struggling industrial city of Elberfeld, where he was impressed by the effects of the new capitalism. He joined a youth organization founded by a teacher, Johann Gregor Breuer, became its president in 1847, and, after two years of successful effort, began to be called "father of the journeymen." This organization was his model when, in 1849, he was transferred to the Cologne cathedral and founded there a Catholic association of journeymen. Even in his lifetime his "Kolping Families" (Kolpingwerke) spread throughout Europe and to America; at his death he was mourned by some 26,000 members in 400 different branches.

Kolping's spiritual character was formed by his family, his early sacrifices, and hard work. On the intellectual level he encountered at Munich the heritage of Johann Michael Sailer (17511832), for whom religion was the basis of all education. The social teachings of Franz von Baader (17651841) likewise left their mark upon his program. Professors who influenced him especially were Josef Görres, Ignaz Döllinger, and Friedrich Windischmann. Kolping deliberately opposed the intellectual tendencies of his age. He was a leader against the rationalism and antisocial individualism then found in the social and political spheres as liberalism among the upper classes and socialism among the lower. Nevertheless, he developed no system, but became a man of action.

Kolping recognized the new value of work and achievement in the transition from the feudal to the modern social order, as well as the importance of the education of the individual for the attainment of this value. He furthered the education of the young people in his association, which he wanted to have recognized as "a people's academy in the people's style." At the same time, he demanded occupational efficiency, saying, "Religion and work are the golden foundation of the people."

Kolping's strength as an educator lay in his fostering of those attitudes that enable individuals to achieve something by their own power and to improve their social position. His purpose extended to raising the intellectual and spiritual status of the whole working class. In 1849, Kolping was appointed vicar of the Cologne cathedral and began to write and speak extensively to promulgate the ideas of the Gesellenverein, defend the rights of workers, and awaken Catholics to their socio-political responsibilities. Kolping used the money generated by his writings to found several periodicals: Rheinische Kirchenblatt, Feierstunde, and Vereinsorgan (185054), Rheinischen Volksblätter für Haus, Familie, und Handwerk (from 1854), the Katholischer Volkskalender (185053), Kalender für das katholische Volk (185366). The so-called German "John Bosco" or "Journeymen's Father" died at age 51 and was buried in the Minoritenkirche, Cologne.

At his beatification Oct. 27, 1991, Pope John Paul II called Kolping the "precursor of the great social encyclicals." He described the blessed as a man who "stood with both feet planted firmly on the ground, and was oriented toward heaven."

Bibliography: Schriften. Kölner Ausgabe, Vol. I: Documents, Diary, Poems, ed. h. j. kracht (Cologne 1975; 2d ed. 1981); Vol. II: Letters, ed. m. hanke (Cologne 1976); Vol. III-V: Social Statements and the Gesellenverein, ed. r. copelovici et al. (Cologne 198587); Vol. VI: Pictures from Rome, ed. h. j. kracht (Cologne 1986). Briefe, ed. m. hanke and r. copelovici (Cologne 1991). Kolping und sein Werk, ed. Generalsekretariat der kath. Gesellenvereine (Cologne 1920). Literature. t. brauer, Kolping (Freiburg 1923, Kevelaer 1935). a. buettner, Kolping Der Mann Gottes: Priester des Volkes (Cologne 1937). v. conzemius, Kolping Der Gesellenvater aktuell, damals und heute (Fribourg-Hamburg 1982). c. feldmann, Adolf Kolping: Für ein soziales Christentum (Freiburg 1991). h. festing, Kolping und sein Werk. Ein Überblick über Leben und Wirken des großen Sozialreformers sowie über die Entwicklung seines Werkes bis heute (Freiburg 1981); Was Kolping für uns bedeutet (Freiburg 1985). h. granvogl, Kolping und die christliche-soziale Bewegung (Augsburg 1987). m. hanke, Sozialer Wandel durch Veränderung des Menschen. Leben, Wirken und Werk des Sozialpädagogen Kolping (Mülheim 1974). h.-j. kracht, Kolping: Ein Mann von gestern mit Ideen für morgen (2d. ed. Essen 1972); Kolping: Sozialpädagoge und Erwachsenenbildner (Cologne 1977); Adolph Kolping: Priester, Pädagoge, Publizist im Dienst christlicher Sozialreform (Freiburg 1993). r. mÜller, Adolf Kolping: Visionär und Reformer (Freiburg 1991). l. perridon, Gesellschaftspolit. Bedingungen der Arbeit Kolpings (Augsburg-Munich 1978). t. rempe, Kolping: Grundsätze zur Pädagogik und Organisation seines Werkes (Cologne 1975). b. ridder, Person und Leben Kolpings in Urkunden und im Urteil von Zeitgenossen (Cologne 1960). g. ritzerfeld, Kolping (Cologne 1963). s. g. schÄffer, Kolping, der Gesellenvater. Ein Lebensbild (Münster 1880, 1882, reprinted Paderborn 1894, Cologne 1927, 1947, 1952,1961). Acta Apostolicae Sedis (1991) 1064. p. steinke, Leitbild für die Kirche (Paderborn 1992). h. j. wirtz, Katholische Gesellenvereine und Kolpingsfamilien im Bistum Münster 1852-1960 (Münster 1999). Acta Apostolicae Sedis (1991) 1064.

[h. fischer]