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Katharina Kentenich

18 July 1863 - 27 March 1939

Katharina Kentenich, Fr Joseph Kentenich’s mother, was born on 18 July 1863 in Gymnich. She was the youngest daughter of eight children born to Matthias Kentenich (1819-1888) and Anna Maria, nee Blatzheim (1818-1909). We know the names of seven older brothers and sisters; three died in infancy. In addition the family took in a foster child, Henriette Pauli, and Katharina’s niece, Henriette Esser. Henriette’s mother, Margareta, was Katharina’s second eldest sister, who died in 1880 (cf. the Kentenich Family Tree).

Joseph’s mother, Katharina, and her 5-year-old niece, Henriette Esser, were living in the house of his grandparents at the time of his birth. All the other children had either married or died.

When she was about 18, Katharina Kentenich went to work at the “Heuserhof”, a farm in Oberbolheim, as a domestic. Matthias Koep (9 December 1841 - 19 March 1931), Joseph Kentenich’s father, was the farm manager. When Joseph Kentenich was born, his mother was 22, his father 44. There are a number of theories why his parents never married. Was it their difference in age, or were the two families against it? We will probably never know for sure. The fact is that they did not marry each other, nor did they marry anyone else.

When Katharina noticed that she was pregnant, she left the “Heuserhof”, and at first went to stay with her eldest sister, Sibilla, and her husband, Peter Joseph Peters in Noervenich. Shortly before the birth of the child, she returned to her parents’ home in Gymnich.

In the first years after her child’s birth, it does not seem that Katharina took up a permanent job. At any rate nothing in this regard has been discovered. We do know that she always tried to support her child herself.

On 25 December her eldest brother’s wife died. Shortly afterwards Katharina moved to Strassburg to take over the running of his household. She took her son with her. However, her stay in Strassburg only lasted a few months. Peter Joseph married again on 25 June 1892, and Katharina had completed her mission. Mother and son returned to Gymnich in the second half of 1892.

After her return from Strassburg, Katharina tried to get a permanent job, and for this purpose moved to Cologne. It has not been possible to reconstruct the exact dates of her employment. What we do know for certain is that on 12 April 1894 she took her son to the Orphanage of St Vincent in Oberhausen. She was no longer able to keep him with her, and his grandmother was unable to care for him on account of her age. His grandfather had died in 1888. One reason for her decision could be that he would receive a better education at the orphanage.

Her first job was with the von Guilleaume family in Cologne. There, as with later jobs, she worked as a cook. She seems to have been a very good cook. Henriette Esser accompanied her for a longer period in order to learn the art of housekeeping. Katharina Kentenich must have started this job before 1894, because she had got to know the well-known parish priest, Fr August Savels of the parish of the Apostles, in Cologne. He had founded the Oberhausen orphanage while he was working there, and later became Katharina’s confessor. She probably followed Fr Savel’s advice when she took her son to the orphanage.

At a later stage, from 1903, Katharina Kentenich worked for the von Wittgenstein family, an ancient noble dynasty, in Cologne. Mr von Wittgenstein, a district administrator, died on 13 December 1913, and Katharina had to look for another job. She came to the Joest family. In 1919, after the death of Mrs Joest, a widow, Katharina again looked for a job, but we are not sure where.

Her last job was with the von Rautenstrauch family. When she was 65 she retired and lived until her death on 27 March 1939 in the “Allerheiligenstift”, Home for the Elderly, Allerheiligenstrasse 12, Sankt Kunibert, in Cologne.

Katharina Kentenich was buried in the Western Cemetery in Cologne-Bocklemuend. It is probable that Fr Kentenich was present, because at precisely this time he absented himself from a course for priests without giving a reason.

Marginalie - The Website about Pater Joseph Kentenich, Foundator of the International Schoenstatt Movement.