The fourth of five children, Adolph Kolping was born December 8,1813, in Kerpen, Germany, a small village not far from Cologne. The Kolping family was poor and his father, Peter Kolping, was a shepherd for a well-to-do farmer.
In school Father Kolping showed his ability as a student, but because of the lack of money he was unable to further his education and took up an apprenticeship as a shoemaker. His desire for higher education never stopped, and at age 21 he entered high school after working 10 years as a shoemaker. Troubled with poor health as a child, he continued to suffer with poor health in high school, however, he still was able to finish his studies in record time.
It was always Father Kolping's wish to become a priest and it was during his high school years that he was able to realize his vocation and what was to be his role in life. In the summer of 1841, Adolph began his studies in theology at the University of Munich and continued them at the University of Bonn. Adolph's father died the night before his ordination. This joyous day that was to be shared by father and son was instead one of sadness. On April 13, 1845, Father Kolping was ordained in the Minoriten Church in Cologne. On his first assignment in Elberfeld he met Mr. Breuer, a schoolteacher. In 1847, Father Kolping was elected Praeses of a journeymen society that had been organized by Mr. Breuer. He had planned to become a scientist, but his work with these journeymen made him decide that God had called him to devote his life and efforts to the young people and their organization.
A transfer to Cologne in 1849 enabled him to enlarge the journeymen's organization. As curate of the cathedral. Father Kolping had more time to devote to travel and writing of articles. These articles gained him recognition as a well-known writer and journalist. The Journeymen's organization grew through his example and effort. By 1865, over 400 journeymen's organizations had been established and were functioning throughout Europe and in America. Quite an outstanding achievement!
In 1862, Father Kolping became director of the Minoriten Church. His devotion to his calling and determination to further his work caused him to neglect his health. It is said this neglect was one of the reasons for his early death on December 4,1865, not yet having celebrated his 52nd birthday. Father Adolph Kolping's final resting place is the Minoriten Church, which he had saved from demolition.