December 8, 1971 –Today, three branches make up the Salvatorian Family – Society of the Divine Savior priests and brothers; Sisters of the Divine Savior; and Lay Salvatorian women and men. Our SDS Congregation was established after the Society in the late 1800’s, under the direction of co-founders Father Francis (Mary of the Cross) Jordan and Mother Mary of the Apostles. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the Society’s USA Province decided to form a group of Lay Associates. By then, the associates movement was occurring in many religious congregations throughout the U.S. At the same time, Salvatorian historians were discovering early documents that revealed Father Jordan’s original vision to “gather a great multitude of lay apostles, permeated with deep apostolic spirit.” The Founder of today’s full-fledged Salvatorian Family desired that the foundation gather anyone, vowed or not, who loved God and wanted to make God known. His founding vision lay dormant and largely unknown, even to Salvatorians, until well into the 1960s and ‘70s. Unearthing Jordan’s early writings awakened the seed that Father Jordan had planted nearly 100 years earlier. In time, these early Associates in the USA would be recognized internationally as Lay Salvatorians committed in fact to the same charism, mission, and spirituality as vowed Salvatorians.
Norma Jean and Jim Borman were the first Associates in the U.S. They made their commitment on December 8, 1971. In SDS Seasons 1975 Spring newsletter, Norma Jean described the membership program “as part of the renewal of the Society. It [was] an effort to renew, not change the first vision of the founder.” In fact, it was the beginning steps toward a Salvatorian Family in the United States.
Norma Jean went on to say, “[The Associate program] envisions a community of lay persons, priests, brothers, and sisters sharing goals, life, and work. Each person is shaped by his or her talents and chosen vocation.”
At this point in 1971, the sisters had not yet seriously considered a lay Associates program, so we assembled a task force to decide if we should form our own. After much consideration, everyone involved agreed that lay women and men would become one Salvatorian Lay Association in the U.S., and be regarded as more than simply “associated” with the two religious congregations. They would be true Salvatorians. Notes from many of those early conversations stressed that “The Associate cannot be something like a third order of lay affiliation. The feeling and spirit of unity between the Salvatorian Associate and other Salvatorians must be fundamental and real.”
In May 1989, all three branches of the USA Salvatorian Family were officially united. The Salvatorian Associates would come to be called Lay Salvatorians, and eventually, the International Community of the Divine Savior. Later still, the three branches formed a Joint Leadership Group to guide collaborative endeavors among all Salvatorians in the U.S.
As it turns out, while the lay program was just finding its legs in the United States, Lay Salvatorians had been emerging internationally. Colombia and Brazil, for example, had already incorporated lay women and men in their Salvatorian mission projects. Their “head start,” so to speak is evidenced by the sizable number of committed Lay Salvatorians in Brazil today. By the late 2000s, more than 3000 Salvatorians, both committed lay and vowed religious, were serving in 49 countries around the world. Today, our inclusivity and universality fulfills Father Jordan’s dream of a Salvatorian Family making the Savior known and loved by all ways and means the love of God inspires.