Father Adolph Kolping, O.F.M., initiated what became the Kolping movement in Cologne, Germany, in 1849. He dedicated his life to improving the lot of the journeyman and organized Gesellenvereine (Journeymen’s Associations) all throughout Europe. In the span of a few years, Father Kolping’s vision of a national journeymen’s association became a reality. He spent the remaining years of his life writing and fostering the tradition of Christian values in the families of his journeymen. He was a great orator, a writer, a journalist and the publisher of his own paper — all vehicles he used to promote his ideals.
Over time, the society founded by Father Kolping took his name. When Father Kolping was beatified in 1991, the International Kolping Society had a total membership of 370,000 people from 4,000 Kolping families in 40 countries. Today, there are Kolping societies in over 60 countries with more than 400,000 members. While the focus of the society has shifted from the promotion of the journeyman, it is still very much rooted in Father Kolping’s ideals of promoting the development of the individual and the family and of providing educational, spiritual, charitable and social activities to this end. The society is a worldwide community of Kolping families all united under the Kolping flag, promoting and supporting one another.
With the ideals of Father Adolph Kolping in mind, 12 young German immigrants who had been members of the Kolping Society in Germany decided to form a society here in Cincinnati, celebrating their “Founding Day” on Nov. 26, 1924. Father Maurice Ripperger, O.F.M., the pastor of St. Francis Seraph Church and the society’s first praeses (spiritual advisor), was instrumental in getting the society going and fostering its development. What started out as a 46-member organization has now grown to be the largest Kolping family in the United States, with over 675 members.
The Catholic Kolping Society of Cincinnati has had a Franciscan priest as its praeses, from its inception. The current praeses is Father Dan Kroger, O.F.M., who is also the editor of St. Anthony Messenger.
Currently, the local society celebrates four Masses for its members on its premises at 10235 Mill Road. The first Mass is on St. Joseph’s Day, since St. Joseph the Worker is the patron saint of the Kolping Society worldwide. The second Mass is on Father’s Day, as a continuation of the emphasis on the family. During this Mass, all fathers are celebrated, as well as married couples who are celebrating significant wedding anniversaries. The third Mass is around Nov. 2 when deceased members who have died throughout the year are commemorated. The final liturgy is celebrated in the first week of December and marks the birth of Blessed Adolph Kolping on Dec. 8, 1813.
The Cincinnati Kolping Society’s main fundraiser is its annual Schützenfest, which is a German festival that traces its origin to the Middle Ages. The Schützenfest takes place over a three-day weekend each year, and it showcases German dancing, music, food and drink.
The local society also has a choir called the Kolping Sängerchor, which promotes the German culture through its concerts of German songs. The choir sang in the World Choir Games in Cincinnati in 2012, and it has also sung with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.
The Kolping Society of Cincinnati’s philanthropic efforts include many organizations, such as Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Little Sisters of the Poor, Care2Share, Mt. Healthy Food Pantry, German-American Citizens League, Old St. Mary’s Church in Over-the-Rhine, Kolping Society National Endowment, Father David Hiller Endowment Fund and Kolping International. Between 2017 and 2020, the society also undertook special effortsto help farmers in Kenya become self-sufficient.
While the early society was an organization for young men, mostly of German descent, the Kolping Society of Cincinnati is now an all-inclusive organization. It is open to men and women, young and old, from all walks of life, but it still maintains some of its German roots.
The society sponsors a variety of activities, providing wholesome recreation, athletics, education, faith-based activities and musical and social entertainment. There are many subgroups, including the Sports Club, Sängerchor, Seniors, Young Families, Schützen Club, Golf League, Genealogy Group, The Journeymen (for high school graduates to age 25), and Tuesday Workers.
The Kolping Society of Cincinnati follows the mission statement of the Catholic Kolping Society of America: “…to promote the development of the individual and family by fostering a sense of belonging and friendship through our holistic programs of spiritual, educational, charitable, and social activities in a way that is relevant to our times.”