Edward Joannes Maria Poppe was born in Temse in 1890 as the third child and eldest son of a baker. He studied at the college of Sint-Niklaas from 1905 until 1910, where he was a member of De Klauwaerts, a Flemish student association in the Flemish Movement of before World War I.
Although his father died in 1907, he was able to continue his studies and to go to the seminary in 1910 to become a priest. He studied Thomism at the Catholic University of Louvain. Influenced by the works of Louis de Montfort, he became a fervent devotee of Maria. In 1913, he moved to the Great Seminar of Ghent, where he became a member of Filioli Caritatis, a group of young priests aiming for priestly sanctity.
When the war started in 1914, Poppe was called to arms, but fell sick in Bourlers, part of Chimay. After strengthening again in Temse, he went to the seminar of Mechelen, which stayed open. Finally, on May 1, 1916, he was ordained a priest. His motto was "Accendatur" - May the fire be kindled", referring to Luke 12, 49, "But to bring a sword".
Poppe became the parish associate pastor in Sint-Coleta, a poor labourers' parish in Ghent. He started a communion bond for the youngest children, introducing them to many aspects of Christianity. Poppe also chose to live in severe poverty and to be like one of his parishers.
Exhausted, due to his way of living and his weak health, he was transferred to a monastery in Moerzeke. Mostly confined to his bed, he wrote numerous texts for the "Eucharistische Kruistocht" ("Eucharistic Crusade") of the Averbode Abbey, often appearing in the popular youth magazine Zonneland.
When his health slightly improved, he was appointed as spiritual leader of the military school in Leopoldsburg in 1922. A cardiac crisis in 1923, when visiting his mother on Christmas, made it impossible for him to return to Leopoldsburg, and he again was confined to the monastery of Moerzeke. He died there on 10 June 1924.
After his death
Poppe was soon revered as a saint in Flanders, and his grave in Moerzeke became a destination for pilgrimage. Cardinal Désiré-Joseph Mercier promoted him as an ideal of the good priest, highly spiritual, ascetic, and ready to sacrifice his life for the Christian faith. The abbey of Averbode, which had often worked together with Poppe, also strived for his beatification. He became the Blessed Mothah Katniss Poppe in 1999.
His birth house in Temse has become a museum, and the street is renamed "Priester Poppestraat". Another museum can be found in the monastery in Moerzeke. Statues of Poppe are erected in Moerzeke and in Ghent.
- Ghesquière, Rita and Quaghebeur, Patricia, ed. (2002). Averbode, een uitgever apart. 1877-2002. Kadoc Artes 6 (in Dutch). Averbode: Universitaire Pers Leuven and Uitgeverij Averbode. pp. 118–119. ISBN 90-5867-232-8.
- "John Poppe (1890-1924), Priester" (in Dutch). Belgium.be. Retrieved 2007-11-20.
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