Francis Mary of the Cross Jordan, S.D.S. (16 June 1848 – 8 September 1918), was a German Catholic priest and the founder of the Society of the Divine Savior, commonly called the Salvatorians. His life is currently under review by the Holy See, for his possible canonization.
He was born John Baptist Jordan in the town of Gurtweil, in the Grand Duchy of Baden (now part of the city of Waldshut-Tiengen, Germany), the second son of Lorenz Jordan and Notburga Peter. Though he felt called to serve as a priest as an early age, the poverty of the family did not allow him to do the required studies. Instead he became an itinerant laborer and painter. Through his travels throughout Germany, he became aware of the effects of the German government's official policies restricting the activities of the Catholic Church, known as the Kulturkampf, which was resulting in the loss of many of the faithful.
Finally spurred by the situation, Jordan gave up his work and began the academic studies required for Holy Orders. He initially had private lessons from local clergy and then attended a secondary school in Constance. Despite his struggle with the sciences, he developed a talent for foreign languages. For his graduation examination, he presented one essay in eight European languages and another one in four other languages. Having successfully completed his initial studies, he then proceeded to enroll at the Albert-Ludwigs University in Freiburg to do his higher studies in the fields of theology and philology. After receiving his degree from the university, he enrolled in the nearby St. Peter Seminary
Priest and founder
On 21 July 1878, he was ordained a priest for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Freiburg. He was then sent by the archbishop to Rome to study Greek and Semitic languages. During this period, he had a growing conviction that he was being called by God to found a new apostolic work in the Church, which had as its goal the unification of groups of priests and laity in spreading and defending the Catholic faith throughout the world. This conviction became even stronger during a trip to the Middle East in 1880.
After returning to Rome, Jordan started implementing his idea of founding a community of members under religious vows and laypeople. This would be organized into three groups, called "grades”: the first would be those who committed to leave everything and, living in community, devote their whole lives to the mission of the organization; the second was to be for academics, who spread the faith by publications; and the third for those laypeople who, remaining in their families and within the reality of their everyday life, would proclaim the Savior through the witness of a good Christian life. On 8 December 1881 in Rome, he founded a community of the first format, initially called the Apostolic Teaching Society, soon called the Catholic Teaching Society, at that time taking the religious name by which he is now known.
That following April, an advertisement for the new Society was answered by Baroness Therese von Wüllenweber (1833-1907), an aristocratic young woman who had long felt a call to serve in the mission life which had been unfilled by the religious Orders she had explored. Jordan visited her in July 1882 and she committed herself to the life of the new Society, becoming its first female member.
Jordan established a community of Religious Sisters of the Catholic Teaching Society in Rome in 1883 under the leadership of Mother Frances of the Cross (Amalia Streitel), but had Wüllenweber remain in Germany. Problems arose, however, between Jordan and this community and these Sisters separated from the Society, going on to become the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, an international religious congregation, particularly committed to health care.
In 1888 Jordan asked Wüllenweber to move to Rome, where she and two companions took religious vows on 8 December of that year, receiving the religious habit from Jordan. She then became known as Mother Mary of the Apostles. Mother Mary of the Apostles was beatified on October 13, 1968, and her liturgical commemoration is celebrated on September 5 (the day she professed her vows as the first female member of the Apostolic Teaching Society).
While communities of the Catholic Teaching Society were being established throughout Europe, in 1890 the Holy See entrusted the region of Assam in British India to the spiritual care of the Society. Jordan then established the first community of the Fathers and Religious Brothers of the Society outside of Europe. Mother Mary of the Angels sent Sisters to work with the women and children of the new Indian mission the following year.
In 1892 Jordan accepted the request of Ambrose Oschwald, a priest from Baden, who had led a group of people from that region to Wisconsin, in the United States, in order to form a Christian communal way of life. The Salvatorians then became established in that country, founding the former John F. Kennedy Preparatory High School from the group's property.
Due to the outbreak of World War I, and the restrictions it imposed on the communications of the Society, its administration was moved to Tafers, Switzerland, a neutral nation. Jordan died there in 1918.
In 1942 the process for Jordan's canonization was introduced to the Holy See. As part of this process, in 1956 his body was exhumed, examined and transferred to the Salvatorian motherhouse in Rome. On 14 January 2011, Pope Benedict XVI authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to publish the decree on the heroicity of his virtues, granting him the title of Venerable.
Today the Salvatorian Fathers and Brothers in 40 countries around the world, represented on every continent. The Religious Sisters of the Society currently number about 1,200 members serving in nearly 30 countries.