April 8th 1956 - Ludwig Esch
† in Sankt Andrä
Father Esch was born on April 1st 1883 in Cologne. His father Ludwig originated from Sindorf, his mother from Cologne. Ludwig was the third of four children.
The father had a leading position by the gas and water works in Cologne. The parents' house with large garden stood in the Luxemburger street. Ludwig visited the classical secondary St Apostles School. After the final examination 1902 he entered on April 11th 1902 in Blyenbeck (Netherlands) the Noviciate of the Society of Jesus.
He took the holy orders on August 2nd 1914 in Valkenburg. In World War I he served as army chaplain at the west front-line, and then as army minister at the east front. He was very courageous and popular, and acquired some honors, not only the Iron Cross I.
Father Esch recognized the chance to collect the youth movement, and to direct it into firm organizational channels. He considered a federation of Catholic pupils of the higher schools, and found in Cologne's Cardinal Felix von Hartmann an open-minded Prince of the Church. Suggested by some Jesuit Fathers and secondary school teachers of the Archdiocese Cologne, in July 1919 the federation Bund-Neudeutschland (ND) was created.
In the whole country the interest grew unbelievably fast. At the end of 1919 there were already 10 000 members in 103 groups. At the beginning of 1930 the number had risen to 16 000 members in 432 groups. Esch proved as diplomat and supervisor. Intelligently he kept aloof and won the Cologne religion
teacher, professor Jakob Schumacher to take over the control of ND. As secretary-general Esch remained motor and centre of the movement.
Professor Schumacher died unfortunately already 1922. Mr. Zender, master at a secondary school in Düsseldorf, was appointed successor by Cardinal Schulte.
Father Esch understood it to held the youth spell-bound. His charismatic talents became more and more obvious. Highlights were the consecration to Mary (at places of pilgrimage such as Bornhofen with torch procession), the open federation days (Cologne, Freiburg, Normannstein, Hirschberg among others), and the Rome pilgrimages (the last one 1930 with more than 200 boys).
His chief occupation were the retreats. There were founded his strength and effectiveness. According to his diary recordings and estimations he made in his life about 60.000 retreat participants appreciate Christ. God alone knows how many priest and order vocations were awakened and promoted by Father Esch. There is to be found no comparable figure in Germany.
In the Nazi period there were pursuits, examinations, suppressions, and at last the prohibition of 'Neu-Deutschland'. After the war it came 1945-1950 spontaneously to reestablishments which turned out however to be more difficult than exspected.
In the year 1950 the Society of Jesus ordered that Father Esch should part with his work. He spent quiet months in Switzerland and worked on his book "Neue Lebensgestaltung in Christus" (New life organization in Christ), which came out punctually to his Golden Order Anniversary 1952.
A new order sent him 1953 to Austria where he should build up and activate anew the spiritual care for priests. He went from seminary to seminary and gave countless conferences and discussions. In the middle of this beneficial activity he had a stroke in September 1953.
On May 11th 1955 he moved from the Viennese retreat house (Lainz) to the tertianship house of the Order in St. Andrä in the Lavanttal, where he had healthier air and better care. There he went on White Sunday, April 8th 1956, just one week after his 73th birthday, quietly home into eternity. It was shortly before three o'clock p.m.
He had celebrated his last Mass on March 26th in the 'Strada Chapel' before the picture 'Maria della strada'.
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