John Baptist Jordan was not born for greatness when he came into the world on June 16, 1848. In fact, his family was downright poor. His father was a stable hand and his mother was a hotel maid. Jordan grew up in the Black Forest area of Germany during a chaotic time, when the secular government was claiming its dominance over religion in all its forms. Jordan wanted to be a priest from a very young age, but the untimely death of his father pulled his family into deeper poverty. Unable to afford an education, he trained as a decorator’s apprentice to support himself and his family.
But Jordan’s dream of priesthood did not die. Eventually, he convinced the local parish priest to tutor him for school entrance exams. Despite many odds, he was accepted into school. With scholarships and assistance from his godmother, Jordan finally was ordained in 1878 at the age of 30.
For political reasons, Jordan was barred from serving the church in Germany, so he went to Rome for language studies. Over the next few years he grew more and more convinced he was being called to found a new religious movement. He dreamed of enlisting men and women from all walks of life to build up the Kingdom of God using all ways and means the love of God inspired. These “new apostles” would look beyond the boundaries of nations, race and gender. They would work at home and abroad, and not rest until the entire world comes “to know and love the one true God and Jesus Christ whom He had sent.” Jordan founded this movement, now known as the Salvatorians on December 8, 1881.
Almost immediately Jordan faced opposition from the church over the name of his new institute, and over its “Noah’s ark” of passengers. No sooner was one misunderstanding cleared up with one group than another arose. For the remainder of his life, until he died in exile from Rome in 1918, Jordan faced misunderstanding and opposition both within and from outside his new order.
Here was a man of unwavering trust in Divine Providence, of unceasing prayer, of unswerving loyalty to the Church, and of unfailing charity to all. These are the heroic virtues he practiced and modeled for Salvatorians, his spiritual children. And these are the virtues we hope to model for those we continue to serve.
(Adapted from material prepared for 2011 Jordan Awareness Week)