Father Francis Mary of the Cross Jordan was born in Gurtweil, south of Freiburg, Germany on June 16, 1848, and was baptized the following day with the name of John Baptist. Due to his family’s great poverty, he was able to begin his studies for the priesthood only as a young adult and then with great personal sacrifice. He was ordained a priest at the seminary of St. Peter near Freiburg, on July 21, 1878. Because of his unusual talent for languages, his Bishop sent him to Rome for further studies and, as an “apostolic missionary,” Father Jordan was able to spend several months in the Middle East. At the holy places, his inner call became unmistakable and sure: he was to found an apostolic work, totally dedicated to the spreading and deepening of the faith. For, “eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). This was the gospel passage that inspired and motivated him.
After much prayer, prudent planning and with the Holy Father’s personal blessing, John Baptist Jordan founded the “Apostolic Teaching Society” on December 8, 1881, in Rome. Seven years later, also on December 8, he founded the Sisters’ branch of the Society in Tivoli near Rome. Blessed Mary of the Apostles (Baroness Therese von Wüllenweber), who totally shared his apostolic and missionary ideals, assisted him in this enterprise and became the guide of the new Community. Since 1894, both foundations have borne the name “of the Divine Savior” (Salvatorians). They soon developed and spread and Salvatorians are now active in 45 countries around the world.
Father Jordan founded his Communities on confidence in God and gospel poverty; he inspired them to a deep apostolic zeal and simple, humble service, urging them to use at all times and everywhere all the means which the love of Christ inspires. He grounded them in unremitting prayer and courageous acceptance of hardships, for “Nothing flourishes,” he wrote, “but in the shadow of the Cross.”
From his small room at the SDS headquarters close to St. Peter’s in Rome, Father Jordan’s heart and mind spanned the whole world. Its deepest concerns and needs, as those of his Society, found an echo in his apostolic prayer, action and suffering. Urgent petitions were confidently placed into the folded hands of the statue of the Immaculate Conception on his desk. He loved to pray at the tomb of St. Peter, the Apostle, and before the image of Mary, his mother. He urged his own to follow Christ “like the Apostles,” to be concerned for the true happiness of each person in whatever country or situation they might be called to serve. The globe of the world was always close at hand.
Father Jordan’s strength had already been consumed by his relentless commitment to the Salvatorian cause when World War I forced him into exile at Fribourg, Switzerland. He died peacefully on September 9, 1918 – feast of the nativity of Mary – in a hospital for the poor in Tafers close to Fribourg, after a life profoundly consecrated to God. He had loved Mary and venerated her with deep, sincere devotion, and it is the faith-conviction of his spiritual sons and daughters that his birthday into heaven on that day is a confirmation of his life and mission. Father Jordan’s cause of beatification is in progress. His remains are interred in a special chapel in the general headquarters of the Society of the Divine Savior in Rome.