Father Francis Mary-of-the-Cross Jordan was given the name John Baptist Jordan at birth on June 16, 1848. He grew up in Gurtweil, Germany, a small town in the Black Forest area of the southwest, just a few miles from the Swiss border.
Even in his youth, Jordan was known to be devoutly religious and often spent time in private prayer. As a young man, he traveled throughout his homeland working as a laborer and painter-decorator. In his travels, Jordan became keenly aware of the difficult spiritual situation of the people in his homeland. The government was restricting the Catholic Church in its mission – a conflict that became known as the Kulturkampf – and people were turning away from God and the practice of their faith. For Jordan, this situation strengthened his faith and he began to sense a call to the priesthood.
On July 21, 1878 Jordan was ordained a priest in Freiburg, Germany. Because he was known to have a gift for languages, Jordan was sent by his bishop to Rome for advanced language studies. He became fluent in Syrian, Aramaic, Coptic, Arabic, Hebrew and Greek. Still, Jordan was sensing that something else was in store for his future. He began thinking about ways to renew spirituality and restore interest in religion. In September 1880, Jordan met privately with Pope Leo XIII in the Vatican, where he outlined his plan to begin a society devoted to spreading the teachings of the faith. The Pope gave Jordan his blessing to move forward with his plan.
On December 8, 1881, Father Jordan witnessed the profession of vows by his first followers. It marked the beginning of the Society of the Divine Savior. After working several years with Therese von Wüllenweber, now known as Blessed Mary of the Apostles since her 1968 beatification, they founded a community of women in their shared cause. On December 8, 1888, Jordan witnessed Therese profess her vows, which marked the beginning of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Divine Savior. Therese was known in her religious community as Mother Mary. Together, members of the men’s and women’s communities became known as “Salvatorians,” derived from the Latin word salvator, meaning “Savior.”
The last days of Father Francis Jordan
- Toward the end of March, 1918, Fr. Jordan began experiencing severe abdominal pain. The doctor diagnosed it as stomach cancer.
- By the end of April, Fr. Jordan was bedridden. He could get up only occasionally to celebrate Mass.
- May 27 – A telegram arrived from Rome stating that the Pope was granting Fr. Jordan his apostolic blessing.
- May 28 – After suffering a severe and lengthy attack, Fr. Jordan was anointed.
- June 25 – Fr. Jordan said Mass for the last time.
- August 26 – Fr. Jordan was transferred to the hospital in nearby Tafers, under the care of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.
- August 31 – Fr. Pancratius Pfeiffer (the second Superior General of the Society) had a final lengthy visit with Fr. Jordan in his hospital room.
- September 1 – Fr. Pancratius was told by the doctor, “There is no hope for recovery. It is only a matter now of easing his suffering.”
- September 6 – Fr. Jordan asked Fr. Pancratius and the other priests in his room to pray the Prayers for the Dying in his presence.
- SEPTEMBER 8 – Feast of the Birth of Mary – 8:00 PM – Fr. Pancratius, at Fr. Jordan’s bedside, noticed suddenly that Fr. Jordan stopped breathing. The Founder took several deep breaths while Fr. Pancratius anointed him. He took one final breath – and he was gone. Fr. Pancratius noted the time on Fr. Jordan’s watch which was on the bedside table. It read 8:02.
Father Francis and Mother Mary shared a vision to bring lay women and men into their work and mission as well, but at that time it didn’t fit the vision of the Church. Not until after the Second Vatican Council closed in 1965 was the dream of Father Francis and Mother Mary fully realized. In the early 1970s, the first Lay Salvatorians made their formal commitment. Finally, the Salvatorian Family was complete!
The Motherhouse of the Society of the Divine Savior is just down the street from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Sisters’ Motherhouse is nearby, atop one of the great hills of the city. Today, more than two thousand Salvatorians around the world continue the mission of Father Francis and Mother Mary: To proclaim the goodness and kindness of Jesus, the Divine Savior, by all ways and means the love of God inspires.
The year 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Salvatorian Founder Father Francis Jordan. On September 8, 1918 he died in Tafers, Switzerland, and was buried in the local church. In 1956, his body was transferred to Rome, where it is now entombed in a chapel in the Society Motherhouse. On March 19, 1999 Pope John Paul II visited the community and prayed at the tomb of Father Jordan. In 2011, the Vatican published the Decree on the Heroicity of His Virtues and declared Father Jordan “Venerable.” His cause for beatification is now in process in the Vatican, and we pray that soon the Church will be able to call him by the title “Blessed.”