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Mary of the ApostlesBlessed Mary of the Apostles
Co-foundress of the Congregation of Sisters of the Divine Saviour.

Therese von Wüllenweber was born in Castle Myllendonk, Mönchengladbach, Germany on 19th February 1833. She went to the boarding school of the Benedic-tine Sisters in Liège, Belgium from 1848-1850. She attended Jesuit inspired parish missions in 1853 and 1857 and took part in a retreat in 1856; these made a great impression on her and fired her with a missionary vocation.

In 1857 in an attempt to clarify her vocation she entered the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Bloemendaal, Netherlands. However, she left the order in March 1863 unable to commit herself to a congregation whose main purpose was education. In further attempts to try her vocation she spent short periods with the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and the Visitation Sisters.

In 1875, in the presence of her spiritual director Dr. von Essen, she made a private vow committing herself to the mis-sions. In part of the former convent in Neuwerk she cared for orphans and gave the opportunity for older ladies to live a common life. However, it remained difficult for her to fully realise her vocation and she continued to search for a missionary community which she could join and put her resources at its disposal.

On 25th April 1882 she answered an advertisement placed by Father Bonaventura Lüthen for the Apostolic Teaching Society. The founder, Father Francis Jordan, visited her on 4th July 1882 and stayed for three days. He made a deep impres-sion on her and on 5th September 1882 she became the first female member of the first degree of the Apostolic Teaching Society.

In 1883 Father Jordan estab-lished a group of sisters in Rome but asked Mother Mary to remain in Neuwerk as a sister of the Catholic Teaching Society. However, problems occurred with the sisters in Rome and on 13th October 1885 they were separated from Father Jor-dan; they continue today as the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother.

In 1888 Father Jordan called Mother Mary to Rome. He found a house for the sisters in Tivoli and on 8th December 1888 she and two others received the habit from Father Jordan. On 25th March 1889 she made perpetual vows in the Sisters of the Catho-lic Teaching Society and was appointed superior. In December 1890 three sisters were sent to the first mission of the Society in Assam, India. By the end of 1892 there were about 50 sisters and novices in the house in Tivoli and they were being sent out to many different parts of the world.

In 1894 a typhus epidemic broke out in Tivoli and seven sisters died, this finally prompted the move to Rome. Mother Mary of the Apostles was unanimously elected as superior general at the first general chapter of the Sisters of the Divine Saviour in 1905. She died on 25th December 1907 after a short illness. In recognition of her personal virtues, trust in divine providence and commitment to the missions she was beatified on 13th October 1968. Her feast is kept on 5th September.

FoundersFr Francis Jordan
Founder of the Society of the Divine Saviour and Congregation of Sisters of the Divine Saviour.

Blessed Mary of the Apostles
Co-foundress of the Congregation of Sisters of the Divine Saviour.

Fr Francis Jordan SDSFr Francis Jordan
Founder of the Society of the Divine Saviour and Sisters of the Divine Saviour.

John Baptist Jordan was born on 16th June 1848 into a poor family in the village of Gurtweil, in the southwest of Germany. He was the second child of Lawrence and Notburga Jordan, who took him to be baptised the day after his birth with the name of John Baptist. His early life was uneventful, but even as a child he had to work hard and do his share to support the family, because his father had been invalided due to an accident.

At his first communion a strange incident occurred. It seemed to him that a dove fluttered over his head, but since no-one else saw it he kept the vision to himself. But from that time he committed himself to God and felt that he had a vocation to the priesthood. He was a talented and lively boy and well liked in the village. Because of the poverty of the family he could not continue at school. Instead he learned the trade of painter and decorator and travelled widely for several years practising his new profession. In this way he saw the great spiritual and material needs of the people.

Jordan was eventually able to begin his journey to the priesthood by taking lessons in Latin from a friendly priest. He then went to the Gymnasium in Constance for two years to complete his basic education. It was not easy for him to sit in the class with much younger boys, but by dint of hard work he graduated with good marks, particularly in languages. From there he went to the Diocesan Seminary of St Peter in Friburg (Germany), where he was ordained in 1878 at the age of thirty. Already in the Seminary he showed great interest in the Missions and in the apostolate of the press, and began to have ideas about starting a work that would unite Catholic forces in the spread and defence of the faith.

Due to the Kulturkampf—the opposition of the Prussian State to the Catholic Church—he was unable to exercise his ministry in his home Diocese and his Bishop sent him to Rome to study oriental languages. He went to live at the Campo Santo Teutonico right next to St Peter’s Basilica, where he soon became known as The Chinaman because of his interest in oriental languages. This extraordinary gift for languages—he had a working knowledge of more than forty languages—meant that in 1880 he was given the opportunity by the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith to travel on their behalf to the Middle East.

On this tour of Egypt and Palestine Jordan took the opportunity to discuss his plans with many eminent Churchmen; their interest in his ideas gave him great encouragement. While climbing Mount Lebanon he had a profound spiritual experience. The words of John 17:3 ran through his mind “Eternal life is this, to know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” He came down from the mountain resolved to put his plans into practice.

On his return from the Middle East he began to search for collaborators. By this time he had moved to the house of S. Brigitta in Piazza Farnese where he established a printing press and started printing the monthly magazine Der Missionär.

On the 8th December 1881 in the Chapel of St Brigida in Rome, Father Jordan and two other priests took private vows as members of the Apostolic Teaching Society. It is this date which is kept as the foundation day of the Salvatorians.

Father Jordan would have achieved little if he had depended solely on his own abilities. Those who followed him did so because they realised that he was a man of God. They knew him to have deep faith and trust in God. Over and over again his plans had to be modified in the face of circumstances and the demands of the Church—Jordan bowed to these changes as expressions of the will of God.

He kept a Spiritual Diary in which he poured out his deepest thoughts and prayers. This Spiritual Diary is a remarkable document, and it remains a source of inspiration to his spiritual sons and daughters. Father Jordan was very much devoted to the See of Peter and went each day to St Peter’s Basilica to pray at the tomb of the Apostle. It was often said, ‘If you want to see a Saint, go to St Peter’s and you will see Father Jordan at prayer.’

Over the years Jordan’s health was gradually undermined. Some of the reasons for this were: the stresses and strains of turning his ideas into a concrete reality; the daily worries involved in running a house of over a hundred priests, brothers and scholastics; the work of establishing the Society in many different countries in a short space of time, and the attacks he suffered in a press campaign against him in 1906. So, in 1915 when Italy entered the First World War and the Generalate moved to Switzerland, Jordan stood down as Superior General and Father Pancratius Pfeiffer took his place. Father Jordan’s heath took a further turn for the worse and he died in the care of the Daughters of Charity in Tafers, Switzerland on 8th September 1918. His remains are interred in a special chapel in the general headquarters of the Society of the Divine Saviour in Rome.

We see in Father Francis Jordan a man of great faith and depth of character. Early in his life he committed himself to the Lord, and to the realisation of the special task he knew he had been given. His vision, determination and faith attracted many people to follow him and join him in trying to win the world for the Saviour. His ideas have not lost their relevance with the passing of time. If anything, his idea of working closely with groups of apostolically minded laity is more relevant than ever.

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