“The Strength of Community“

Stimulus for May 1, 2020, the Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker

In these times of the global coronavirus pandemic, it becomes evident in a most dramatic way how much gainful employment is crucial for the survival of the majority of people. What has been obvious for a long time in terms of those providing care in their families or jobs, has now become an undeniable and painful fact for the global community: people who cannot work often face the risk of dying.

Day laborers do not have any savings. Without work they cannot make a living. In many countries of the Global South, people working in the informal economy make up the biggest part of the working population. They are not eligible for any short time working regulations or rescue packages. Smallholder farmers who still manage somehow to feed their families with basic foodstuffs are at an advantage over landless people living in the cities. However, farmers also have to face collapsing markets and a loss of income.

In Europe and in some other countries in the world, social security systems protecting people from disease and unemployment, providing for old-age and ensuring their survival have been the result of long and painful struggles of women and men who joined forces to become stronger.

Blessed Adolph Kolping and his publications inspired many authors to agitate on the basis of their Christian faith for strong associations and for unions of workers with the aim of achieving mutual protection. His work continues to be a living testimony to the strength of the community. He was one of those whose work and activities helped to lay the ground for the first social encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1891. The Pope stated in No. 49: “The most important of all are workingmen’s unions, for these virtually include all the rest. History attests what excellent results were brought about by the artificers’ guilds of olden times. They were the means of affording not only many advantages to the workmen, but in no small degree of promoting the advancement of art, as numerous monuments remain to bear witness.” What Pope Leo XIII wrote at the end of the 19th century still holds true today: “The consciousness of his own weakness urges man to call in aid from without.“ (No. 50)

May 1 reminds us of the strength of community, not only of the strength of trade unions but of all federations and associations that are fighting for a better life and better working conditions of people. Adolph Kolping dedicated his life to the journeymen’s associations. To us who are part of Kolping Families all over the world, solidarity that he taught us remains a mission in life across national borders.

May Saint Joseph always guide us in our efforts to accomplish this mission.

Dr. Markus Demele, KOLPING INTERNATIONAL General Secretary