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Father Francis Jordan
Father Francis Jordan
Founder of the Salvatorians
Spiritual Father of FJY
Father Francis Jordan was born in the village of Gurtweil, in the Black Forest, on 16th June 1848, and baptised the following day with the name of John Baptist.
Due to his family's great poverty he had to go to work straight after elementary school. Jordan served in the army and worked on the construction of the railways and as a painter and decorator. During this period he saw the great spiritual needs of the ordinary people who were flocking to the cities to find work in the increasingly industrialised society of his day and he realised that God was calling him to do something to meet this spiritual hunger.
He resolved to study for the priesthood but having been out of school for eight years it was not easy to go back to the classroom. He turned out to be a gifted student with a particular facility for languages.
John Baptist was eventually ordained a priest on 21st July 1878 but due to a long struggle between the Church and Bismarck’s Germany he was forbidden by law to take up a parish appointment and so his Bishop sent him to Rome for further linguistic studies.
After his studies Father Jordan managed to take a trip to Egypt and Palestine to carry diplomatic messages for the Church authorities and took an extended break there to further his study of Middle Eastern languages.
All during his studies the idea had grown within him that he must do something special for God. He realised that he was being drawn to found some special work, an organisation within the Church that would advance the work of evangelisation. During his journey to Palestine these ideas crystallised and he began to draft a rule for his new institute.
As he visited 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.
A Gospel passage that moved, inspired and motivated him was "Eternal life is this: that they know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." (John 17,3)
After much prayer and planning and after receiving the encouragement of many Bishops and Cardinals, and with Pope Leo XIII’s personal blessing, Father Jordan founded the "Apostolic Teaching Society" on 8th December 1881, in Rome.
Although by birth a German, Jordan was most insistent that his Society should be based in Rome at the heart of the Church. The actual foundation took place at Santa Brigida in the Piazza Farnese, near the English College, but not long after he moved to what is now the Motherhouse of the Society in Via della Conciliazione just in front of St Peter's Basilica.
After some difficulties in 1888, also on 8th December he was able to found the Sisters' branch of the Society at Tivoli near Rome. Blessed Mary of the Apostles (Baroness Therese von Wuellenweber), who totally shared his apostolic and missionary ideals became the leader of the new community of Sisters.
The Church authorities had some difficulties with the name of the new Society and in 1894, the men’s branch became known as the Society of the Divine Saviour and the women’s as the Sisters of the Divine Saviour. However, both are simply called Salvatorians from the Latin word ‘Salvator’ meaning Saviour.
Jordan was soon joined by other like-minded men and women and his two Societies quickly flourished and spread throughout the world and between them they are active now in about forty countries and together number nearly three thousand members with many lay collaborators.
Father Jordan founded his communities on confidence in God and Gospel poverty. He had a deep devotion to the Blessed Lady under various titles, Queen of the Apostles, Sorrowful Mother, Mother of the Saviour, and others. On his desk stood a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. Into her folded and praying hands he often placed his most urgent written petitions concerning personnel, spiritual and material needs of his young communities.
Nearby were his many books and dictionaries, aids in learning and perfecting the more than forty languages that he had mastered; also in his room there was a globe of the world. Both of these are witness to his worldwide vision. Images of the Crucified Saviour and his sorrowing Mother could also be found in his room and in the community chapel. From such an environment one can begin to understand how his heart could be so filled with love for God, for His Christ, for His mother and for the whole world.
When Father Jordan could not be found in his room or in the house he could nearly always be found in the quiet and prayerful Blessed Sacrament Chapel in the nearby St. Peter's Basilica. Ever prayerful, he inspired his communities with a deep apostolic zeal and simple, humble service, urging them to be ready to use at all times and everywhere all the means which love for Christ inspires.
He gave personal example of courageous acceptance of hardships and the Cross, for as he told his first missionaries to Assam, India, "The works of God flourish only in the shadow of the Cross." Father Jordan inspired in the members of his Society a deep love of the Divine Saviour and urged them to imitate his "goodness and kindness” (Titus 3,4).
Father Jordan's strength was already consumed by his relentless commitment to the Salvatorian cause, when the First World War forced him into exile at Fribourg, Switzerland. He died peacefully on Mary's birthday, 8th September 1918, in a home for the poor in nearby Tafers, after a long life profoundly consecrated to God.
The nativity of Mary, whom he venerated with deep and sincere devotion, thus became his birthday into heaven. To have died on this special Marian feast is rightly regarded as a confirmation of his life and mission. His remains are now interred in a special chapel in the Motherhouse of the Society of the Divine Saviour in Rome.
The process for the beatification of Father Francis Jordan is at an advanced stage and prayers are asked for this intention.