Historical Sketch of the Canadian Association of the Order of Malta
There were several knights of Malta in Acadia and New France during the colonial era, but there never was a formal association, let alone a priory or a commandery. There nearly was, though. Commander Isaac de Razilly offered his immense Acadian lands to the Grand Master of the Order with the thought that it could be erected into a priory.
The Order’s influence in New France was indicated on Champlain’s 1612 map, where a Gaspé promontory is named “C de Chate”, in honour of Commander Aymar de Clermont de Chaste, governor of Dieppe, in France, who had sponsored the de Mons expedition in 1604. The name survives today as “Cap-Chat”. 1
The former City of Sillery, now part of Quebec City, was named after Commander Noël Brulart de Sillery. The first Governor General of New France, Huault de Montmagny, was a professed knight of the Order. To him, we probably owe the stone on which is carved the eight pointed cross, found in 1787 in the rubble of the old Château Saint-Louis, in Quebec. This stone is a reminder of the influence once exercised by the knights of Malta during the French Colonial era and from which stemmed the romantic but mistaken view that there had once been a commandery of the Order in New France. 2
While in 1745 the Order bought grain from Canada for the Island of Malta, 3 it would be a long interval before the Order would become officially established in Canada.
The idea of a Canadian Association of the Order of Malta was first raised in 1948, on the occasion of Quebec’s Eucharistic Congress when two Italian members of the Pontifical Household, both Knights of Malta, attended on Cardinal Rodrigue Villeneuve, Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada, who was the Papal Legate. They were Count Nicolà Nasalli Rocca and Avv. Dott. Alberto Garabelli (†1959). These two gentlemen belonged to the Grand Priory of Rome.
Dr. Garabelli traveled from Quebec City to Montreal, duly mandated by the Grand Magistry “to institute inquiries about the possibility of forming a Canadian Association”. 4 He met with several eminent Canadian Roman Catholic personalities, among them, Count Robert W. Keyserlingk and Mr. Quintin Jermy Gwyn.
The following year, Colonel Thomas Guerin, OBE, MA, PhD, a Knight of Justice and Hospitaller of the Canadian Priory of the Most Venerable Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, wrote and published a book under the title From the Crusades to Quebec, The Knights of Malta in the New World. 5 This was the first contemporary work which retraced the history of the Order of Malta’s involvement in the foundation and development of the French colonies in the Americas. 6
Colonel Guerin died in 1963. At that time, he was President Emeritus of the Canadian Association, having assumed the tasks of Acting Vice-President in 1950, Vice-President until 1957 and President from 1957 to 1961. At his death, it was written: “It is true to say that no one has done more for the development of the Order of Malta in Canada or been more devoted to its interest and it is a lasting tribute to our Honorary President’s work that our Association in Canada is now so well established and so widely recognized”. 7
Since a minimum number of seven knights was needed in order to create a national association, Doctor Garabelli returned to Canada in 1952 and admitted in gremio religionis the following seven Canadian personalities: the Right Honourable Édouard Thibaudeau Rinfret, Chief Justice of Canada (†1962), Colonel Thomas Guerin (†1963), Mr. Quintin J. Gwyn (†1994), Count Robert W. Keyserlingk (†1990), Lieutenant-Colonel J. Darley LeMoyne (†1976), Mr. Daniel de Yturralde y Orbegoso (†1980), and Mr. Desmond Clarke (†1976).
The Canadian Association was incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation by federal charter on January 27, 1953. The first seven knights formed its first Board of Directors.
Chief Justice Thibaudeau Rinfret was elected the first President while Mr. Quintin J. Gwyn was elected Chancellor. Mr. Gwyn would later become President before serving as the Order’s Grand Chancellor in Rome.
In 1970, in this capacity, Mr. Gwyn described the mission of the modern knight of Malta in terms that are still valid today. Because they can serve as a model, some quotes from this seminal address are worth repeating:
The Knight of St. John of today no longer draws his sword in defence of Christendom, he cuts no heroic figure, the trappings of his rank are seen but seldom, and even then do not compare in any way with the spectacle of a medieval knight in full panoply and array. But the same spirit must animate his mind and soul.
He must be prepared to speak his mind on matters of public interest and if need be to run counter to popular opinion. Politically he stands where every honest man must stand, neither to the far right, not to the extreme left but ‘four square’ for justice, for honesty, for the rights of every individual, for integrity, for truth, and above all for charity. 8
Bailiff Count Emeric Hutten-Czapski, President of the Polish Association, was sent by the Grand Magistry to assist the Canadians in drafting the by-laws of the Association so that they would conform to the Order’s constitution and the laws of Canada.
Appropriately enough, the new Association’s first public act was a mass said in the chapel of the Université de Montréal by Monsignor Olivier Maurault, p.s.s., PA, CMG, President of the University and Conventual Chaplain of the Order (†1968), whom Cardinal Carter described as “one of the outstanding founders of the Order in Canada.” 9
In his homily, the distinguished prelate and academic recalled the words of Pope Pius XII 10 with respect to the Order, namely that, long before nations had established international organizations, the Order had gathered men from eight different countries in order to consecrate them to the defense of spiritual values: peace, faith, justice and social justice.11
New members were immediately recruited. Investitures tended to be somewhat of a quasi-private nature. Such was the case in Québec City when the Honourable Onésime Gagnon (†1961), Lieutenant-Governor of the Province and Maurice, Cardinal Roy (†1985), Archbishop of Québec, were admitted. The Association also recruited, early on, members in Ontario, and in both Eastern and Western Canada.
By 1960, the Canadian Association had 74 members, 10 religious, 51 knights, 1 donat and 12 dames, of whom 27 were in Québec, 17 in Ontario, 4 in Nova Scotia, one in New Brunswick, 2 in Saskatchewan and one in British Columbia.
The Association’s first public manifestation took place in Montréal, in 1954, with the première showing of the film “The Battle of Malta”. The gala evening was deemed a success and proceeds were sent to Archbishop Gonzi of Malta for assistance to the Maltese orphans.12
Not surprisingly, the Association played an active role among European immigrants to Canada, especially those from Poland and Hungary. Among many activities it sponsored in 1955, the St. John of Jerusalem Day nursery in Montréal, under the direction of Count Thaddeus de Romer, President of the Polish War Veterans’ Immigrant Committee, a professor at McGill University and former Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs. Mrs. Irène Smodliboska acted as Superintendent of the nursery, ministering to fifty-five children a year after its opening.
The Benedictine Sisters of Saint Lieuka, who had recently established a house in Montreal and whose work was directed towards the care and relief of European immigrants, were also assisted by the Association in their early stages.
Assistance to immigrants, particularly those with a connection to the Order, was entirely in keeping with the Order’s ageless international mission as evidenced by this excerpt from an early Annual Report which noted:
The sufferings our donations have helped to alleviate were far greater than our generosity would meet, but it was particularly gratifying that in sending our contributions on behalf of the needs to those confreres directly participating in these corporeal works of mercy, we could demonstrate the close ties which bind the various associations in solidarity of attachment and in common loyalty to our ancient tradition.13
The Association also entered into a joint partnership with the Red Cross blood donor clinic, established in Montréal in 1958.
Commenting on the foundation of the Canadian Association, a Montréal newspaper wrote: “The first activity undertaken by the Canadian Association was the creation of a corps of Auxiliaries, willing to dedicate themselves to help the many charitable institutions and organizations.” (Translation)
The newspaper added: “Thus, there is a great need for drivers to form a sort of taxi pool in order to drive children periodically to hospitals for treatment.” 14 (Translation) The Auxiliaries Committee was headed by Mrs. William Van Horne, née Hannan (†1987), who had been admitted as a Dame of Magistral Grace in 1953.
From the early days of the Canadian Association, ladies played a major part in its activities. Among the first Canadian Dames, mention must be made of Mrs. Justine de Gaspé Beaubien, CBE (†1967), née Lacoste, whose name is so intimately attached to Sainte-Justine Hospital, the Montréal hospital for sick children. The Honourable Pauline Vanier (†1991), wife of the late Governor General, was also a Dame Grand Cross of Magistral Grace. She had been invested at Rideau Hall on 21 December 1960, along with her husband, General the Right Honourable George Philias Vanier, Governor General of Canada at the time, who was admitted as a Knight Grand-Cross of Magistral Grace with ribband. 15
In 1955, at the initiative of Mr. Gwyn, at the time Chancellor of the Association, the first Auxiliary Corps was founded at St. Joseph’s Oratory, in Montréal. Other corps, which were regrouped as Brigades, were created afterwards at the Marian shrine in Cap-de-la-Madeleine and in several places in Montréal, notably at Résidence Jean-de-Lalande, the Lachine Centre and a Prayer Brigade in the diocese of Saint-Jean-Longueuil as well at the Institut Bruchési.
The Auxiliary corps, which comprises 121 volunteers, has been under the able supervision of M. Henri Pelland, knight of magistral grace, for the past fifteen years. The members of the corps have now accumulated more than 9 million hours of volunteer work.
Also in Metropolitan Montréal, the Association has become involved with the Maison Joie-de-Vivre, a home provided for expecting mothers who choose to continue their pregnancy rather than seek an abortion.
At first, the Association was also involved in dispensing first aid courses, through the Auxiliaries in Montréal’s Catholic schools, as well as to cadet corps in Montréal High Schools. Similar courses were also undertaken in Québec City. The courses were enormously successful; so much so that, in 1956, Cardinal Léger personally handed 450 certificates to Ambulance and First Aid Auxiliaries. This activity was later abandoned in order not to replicate a similar service offered by the Saint John Ambulance of the Canadian Priory of the Most Venerable Order of Saint John.
In 1954, a year after the foundation of the Canadian Association, the Montréal weekly, La Patrie, commented at length on the numerous activities already undertaken by the young Association:
So, far, the Knights have preferred to help already existing activities rather than to create new ones. They have cooperated in the activities of the Sisters of Good Counsel, the Sisters of Service, the Casinius Centre, Catholic immigrants, etc. […] The Order of Malta in Canada assists missionary activities, and one in particular which looks after the transportation of Catholic missionaries from one country to another and for which it has received, among others, thanks and congratulations from the Canadian Foreign Missions and the Society of the White Fathers of Africa. 16 (Translation)
The Canadian Association’s assistance to Catholic foreign missions was a quite remarkable and highly useful achievement, conceived and administered by our late confreres Count Keyserlingk and Darley LeMoyne. It was, in fact, conducted through a travel agency, RAPTIM-CANADA Ltd., incorporated by a federal charter I 1956. When it was amalgamated with RAP-TIM-HOLLAND, in 1970, it could legitimately boast that it had assisted, in a single year, 1,200 missionaries belonging to 89 Orders or Congregations. 17
Charitable and hospitaler activities were developed also in Québec City, for instance, the Association, under the guidance of Knights Lieutenant-Colonel Simon G. Parent, Q.C., and Colonel Vincent A. Curmi (†1954), helped fund an overnight shelter for the homeless, under the direction of the Hospitaler Brothers of Saint John of God.
It was also in Québec City that the Canadian Association first became involved with the spiritual needs of sailors through the Catholic Sailors’ Home at the initiative of Messrs. Prent and Curmi. This was quickly followed by a similar involvement, through Apostolus Maris, in Montréal, Toronto and Hamilton. A chaplain wrote at the time:
It soon became apparent that in today’s world the need of the sailor is more often spiritual than material. Conditions by and large of the sailors have improved as against even a century ago when indigence and inadvertence marked the lot of the ‘men\ who went down to the sea in ships’.18
In Toronto, in September 1965, at the initiative of Louis L. Odette, a group of knights undertook to purchase an estate of 100 acres of rolling land, in Orangeville, that was to become The Good Shepherd Manor, a home for young mentally challenged children under the care of the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd.
The Manor was inaugurated on 1 October 1966. The Brothers defined their mission to the members of the Canadian Association in the following form: “Our hope is that they will live better lives with their families. We shall teach them cleanliness and care of their clothing and help them become available for simple jobs in light industry, light workshops and agriculture. They will also learn art and crafts.”19
This important endeavour was crowned with success. In a letter of appreciation, in 1971, the Brothers thanked the members of the Canadian Association for the success of their recent fund raising. The Annual Report noted that thanks to the quality of service and the kindness of the Brothers, the Metropolitan Toronto Separate School Board had designated the Manor as suitable for practical training by teachers. Furthermore, the School Board was now providing financial assistance as well.
Other charitable activities in the Toronto area included Providence Villa, St. Francis’ Table, the Out of the Cold program, and several others.
In 1973, in Ottawa, assistance and direction was provided by the knights and dames to the Group Homes Associates, a transition home for young delinquents under the direction of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. The home was provided in order to facilitate the earlier social reintegration of the young men who, otherwise, would have had to remain in penal institutions, thereby jeopardizing their resocialisation. The corporation’s first President was our late confrere Maurice Boisvert, Q.C. (†1988).
An Auxiliary Corps of Volunteers, under the direction of Dr. Osman P. Gialloretto, M.D., knight of magistral grace, was created in Ottawa, in November 2000, with the collaboration of the Alzheimer Society of Ottawa-Carleton with educational training provided by Algonquin College. The mission of this new Auxiliary Corps is to provide trained assistance to Alzheimer patients alongside the trained professionals in either long-term care institutions or in home for respite care.
Since November 2001, the Canadian Association is a sponsor of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, situated in Toronto, under the direction of knight of magistral Grace, Dr. William Sullivan, BSc, MD, CCFP, PhD. Bioethics is concerned with moral issues that arise in healthcare and biomedical research. At the official launch of the Institute, Doctor Sullivan said:
Canadians, including Canadian Catholics, are faced with a wide range of complex issues in the bioethics field, from stem cell research to euthanasia. The CCBI will bring together the most qualified Canadian thinkers from a range of relevant disciplines to address these questions. This work will certainly involve building bridges between the humanities and the life sciences, but we think such bridges are necessary if we are to help humanize healthcare in this age of advanced medical technologies. 20
In 1954, Paul-Émile Cardinal Léger (†1991), Archbishop of Montréal, was admitted, in Rome, as a Bailiff Grand-Cross of Honour and Devotion, the first of this rank in Canada. In the presence of Frà Antonio Hercolani Fava Simonetti, Lieutenant of the Grand Magistry ad interim, Cardinal Léger said: “The dignity that the Order of Malta confers on me today is not an ordinary decoration. The Star of the Knights of Malta shines with a particular brightness in the storied past, and if the modern world followed its light, it would again find a haven of peace...” 21 (Translation).
In his remarkable speech given at Palazzo Malta, Cardinal Léger gave a preview of the personal interest he would always display towards the Order and its Canadian Association. The long hospitaler tradition of the Order moved him to say:
Opposite every wall that separate peoples and brothers within a same country and in a same house, we must marshal the army of the gentle, of the merciful, of the architects of peace, in the respect of truth and right.
Over the course of several centuries, the Order of Malta has displayed the world over the standard on which this Cross shone, charged with the rays of the eight Beatitudes. The peoples who followed this light have known the peace that marked this period of history called Christianity. 22 Translation
To underline his personal dedication to the Order’s ideals and to its mission, Cardinal Léger, in 1958, placed a chapel in the Montreal basilica-cathedral of Mary Queen of the World at the disposal of the members of the Canadian Association. This chapel was, and still is, used for weddings but “it will be known also as the Canadian Association’s Religious Headquarters”. It was noted at the time that the “acquiring of a permanent setting for the ceremonies of the Association will lend a greater dignity to our carrying out the time-hallowed observance of the Order’s Catholic ritual”. 23
Cardinal Léger attended the first mass celebrated in the newly renovated chapel on the Order’s Patron feast, 24 June 1958. The mass was said by then Canon G. Emmett Carter, Magistral Chaplain of the Order. In 1967, he became titular Bishop of Altiboro and auxiliary to the Bishop of London, Ontario where he succeeded before being translated to Toronto as Archbishop and elevated to the cardinalate. Cardinal Carter, who had been a chaplain of the Order since the founding of the Canadian Association, became a Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion and the Associations’ Chief Chaplain until his death in 2003. 24
Cardinal Carter’s involvement in the Order’s activities, spiritual and charitable, were always of an active nature. In one of his homilies to the members of the Canadian Association, he defined the authentic mission of the Order in these words:
It is a time for the steel of the spirit, a hardness and a sharpness that comes in our perception of the truths of the Gospel and of the teaching of the Catholic Church. This is no easy task. We are all men and women who live in the world and of the world and we are caught up in the philosophy of the world. But if we are to be worthy of our vocation and of our dedication as members of the Order of Malta we have no choice but to hold forth the beauty and the transcendence and the mystery of our Catholic faith. Let us so dedicate ourselves. 25
In order to better underline the chapel’s special relationship to the Order of Malta and its Canadian Association, three stained glass windows were installed, the gift of Colonel Sidney Culverwell Oland (†1977) of Halifax, Knight of Magistral Grace. The coat of arms of the Order is represented in the window on the left of the altar while the former Arms of the Canadian Association are represented on the right hand side. 26 The eight-pointed cross appears in the lunette above the altar. The Annual Report at the time mentioned that the “windows are a great embellishment to the Chapel and are symbolic of our close association with the Cathedral Church of His Eminence, Cardinal Léger, Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion”. 27
The chapel has since been splendidly renovated and solemnly rededicated to the Virgin of the Assumption on December 6, 2001 during a mass celebrated by Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, Archbishop of Montréal, assisted by Reverend Msgr. Pierre Saint-Cyr, rector of the basilica cathedral, and by the Reverend Msgr. Norbert Lacoste and Father Yvon Lauzon, chaplains of the Order.
The magnificent baroque reredos dates from around 1635 and was the work of a Spanish monk for the Benedictine abbey of Bellelay, in Switzerland.
A painting, representing the Holy Patron of the Order, Saint John the Baptist, was placed in the chapel. It was a gift by Queen Victoria to the celebrated Canadian singer, Marie-Emma Lajeunesse (1852-1930), CBE, better known by her stage name of Madame Albani. 28
It was in this chapel, on 5 January 1961, that the first Canadian Knights in Obedience made their promise during a ceremony presided by Canon Carter, in the presence of Cardinal Léger. They were President T. Guerin, Vice-President Q. J. Gwyn and Count R. W. Keyserlingk.
The renovated chapel in the basilica-cathedral remains the high spiritual site of the Canadian Association and serves as a historical link with its founders. The Canadian Association made a financial contribution to the work of restoration. It was also in 1958 that Colonel Thomas Guerin, Knight Grand Cross of Grace and Devotion and President of the Association, gave a ceremonial sword, made around 1550, which has been used since Colonel Guerin’s gift in solemn processions and for the dubbing of new Knights. 29
If the early investitures tended to have a rather private character, this changed fairly rapidly with the introduction of gala dinners in Ottawa following investitures at which the representatives of countries accredited to the Order were regularly invited. This underlined the international and sovereign status of the Order of Malta. To illustrate, in 2967, the Ambassador of Switzerland to Canada, Hans W. Gasser, offered the toast to the Order in the following terms:
You may be proud of the rich heritage which the Order has left behind and the responsibility bestowed on each of its members, the task of pursuing its charitable endeavours and aims, alleviating the sufferings of the less fortunate members of humanity. Indeed a noble ambition which you all have justly assumed to carry on and to hand over to future generations. 30
These gala events, which were attended regularly by Governor General Vanier and Madame Vanier – and later by their successors at Rideau Hall, Governor General Roland Michener and Madame Michener – were far more than mundane protocol events since they undoubtedly helped the missions undertaken by the Canadian Association of behalf of the Order of Malta. In 1964, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and Mrs. Pearson accompanied the Vice-Regal couple.
With its early record of assisting European immigrants to Canada, it was only natural, given the international scope of the Order, that the Canadian Association would take an active part in remote pars of the world. Responding to an appeal by the Holy Father, the Canadian Association undertook, in 1970, to assist orphans in Guatemala. Mater Orphanorum, a home for orphans and abandoned children, was adopted by the Canadian Association and its welfare was entrusted to Edwin J. Brisbois (†1976), of Toronto, who made several trips to Guatemala on behalf of the Association.
In cooperation with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Canadian Association became involved with the Institute of Applied Leprology in Dakar, Senegal. Bailiff-President Marc Lacoste (†1981), accompanied by the Association’s Honorary Treasurer, Knight Grand Cross Maurice Corbeil (†1999), visited the Institute in Dakar, in April 1975, when they were received in audience by President Léopold Senghor.
In January 1964, The Order of Malta Charitable Fund was established to centralize the financial activities of the Canadian Association. Then in March 1964, the Association entered into a protocol with the University of Ottawa for the establishment of an Institute of Pastoral Medicine, at the initiative of our confrere Dr. Jean-Jacques Lussier, Ph.D., M.D. (†1975), at the time Dean of the Faculty of Medicine.
The spirituality of the members of the Association was also a matter of concern. Thus, in May 1973, were inaugurated the first retreat for members of the Association at the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Benoît-du-Lac in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. Retreats have since become a regular part of the spiritual development of the members, and are held in different parts of the country.
One of the highlights of the Canadian Association’s history occurred in the Fall of 1992 when the 78th Grand Master, Frà Andrew Bertie, accompanied by several high dignitaries of the grand Magistry, visited Canada. This was the first visit by a Grand Master to our country and it coincided with a series of important anniversaries that Frà Andrew Bertie highlighted during his visit.
1992 was a highly symbolic year during which several anniversaries were to be marked: the 125th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation; the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ first voyage of exploration of the western hemisphere; the 360th anniversary of the arrival of Commander Isaac de Razilly in Acadie, the first Knight of Malta in what is now Canada; the 350th anniversary of Québec City and also the 150th anniversary of the erection of the Archdiocese of Toronto. Last, but not least, 1992 marked the 40th anniversary of the incorporation of the Canadian Association.
After enumerating the challenges that were met in order to create a thriving Catholic Church in Toronto, Frà Andrew Bertie noted that none of this had been accomplished without difficulty and sacrifice. However, “nothing that is good and worthwhile comes easily, but it is also apparent that Canadians welcome a good challenge. Building and maintaining your country and your church are abundant proof of this”, he said. The Grand Master added:
I should like to think that the Order of Malta has played some part in all of this. The Canadian Association pioneered children’s day care, care of physically and mentally chronically ill children, the care of young offenders and the settlement of refugees. To some extent it has become a victim of its own success when so many of its initiatives have been incorporated into Canada’s magnificent social and health care network. At the same time, while the Canadian Association is looking for new projects, it recognizes its limitations and has therefore defined its priorities. The care of pilgrims, the originals work of the Order, is therefore, an important one. Canada has four of the major shrines of Christendom. The care of the elderly and the providing of education and ethical support care for the professionals caring for the aged is also important. 31
During his stay in Canada, the Grand Master visited Niagara, Toronto, the Canadian Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ottawa, Montréal, the Notre-Dame-du-Cap Shrine at Cap-de-la-Madeleine and Québec City.
At the inauguration of the Good Shepherd Refuge, in Toronto, the Grand Master drew a parallel between the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd, with whom the Toronto Delegation had been closely associated through the former Good Shepherd Home, and the Order’s mission. He said:
The Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd are a young community within the Church, but one which has distinguished itself since its inception by its dedicated service to those who, in our Order, we have always called “our lords the sick and our lords the poor”. Implicit in this phrase is the notion that we are the servants to those who in temporalities are less fortunate. I am struck, too, by the coincidence – or is it more than that that – Christ not only challenges us to see Himself in these persons, but that He, himself, is frequently called by the name of “our Lord”. 32
In Ottawa, where the Grand Master was received by the Speaker of the Senate, a postal agreement between the Order and Canada Post was signed. Also, at Saint John House in Ottawa, on 23 September 1992, a protocol of mutual friendship was signed by the Chancellor of the Venerable Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, the late Dr. Donald Rae, the President of the Canadian Association, H.E. Dr. John A. MacPherson Ph.D., and the President of the Canadian sub-Commandery of the Johanniterorden, the Late Dr. Joachim Brabander, M.D., in the presence of the Grand Master.
This protocol, or more properly, this accord, is in the spirit of the Concordat which binds the legitimate Orders of Saint John to a common tradition. It is particularly important in view of the numerous so-called Orders of Saint John of Jerusalem who usurp the names, insignia and emblems of the legitimate Orders.
Normal, fraternal and regular relations with the Priory in Canada of the Venerable Order of Saint John of Jerusalem began in earnest under the presidency of Bailiff Grand Cross in Obedience Marc Lacoste, in 1975. A meeting was held in Ottawa, at Saint John House, in 1975, between the then Chancellor of the Canadian Priory, Brigadier General G. E. Beament, and Judge Lacoste “accompanied by Knight of Grace and Devotion Robert Pichette, when matters of mutual interest were discussed, as they have been at several subsequent meetings in an atmosphere of cordiality proper in the relationship which should exist among recognized Orders…” 33
This fraternal spirit of cooperation was also in evidence in Montréal where the Grand Master and his entourage were the guests of the Canadian sub-commandery of the Johanniterorden. It should be noted that, in Victoria, B.C., a member of the sub-commandery is actively involved in a program of visitation and transportation set up by members of the Order of Malta; “a small-scale example of practical and mutual collaboration between Johanniter and Malteser”. 34
Addressing the Dames, Knights and Auxiliaries of the Canadian Association, in Saint Joseph’s Oratory, in Montréal, the Grand Master defined the Order’s mission as follows:
We belong to a very ancient Order of the Church whose basic mission to serve “Our Lords the poor, Our Lords the sick” has not changed throughout the centuries. On the contrary, it has been intensified. The solemn undertaking that each of us subscribes to upon becoming a member of the Order of Malta transforms us into real Crusaders in the service of the Church and mankind. 35 (Translation)
Wherever he went during his Canadian visit, Frà Andrew Bertie insisted on the Order’s mission. “The Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta,” he said, “have been for centuries witnesses to the Church’s continuum, that is to say, to the very essence of the Gospels.”
The Grand Master invited the members of the Canadian Association to adopt the same vision of the Order that Cardinal Léger had outlined in Rome, in 1954:
The strategy and tactics of the Kingdom of God do not change. The Church, today, needs soldiers who accept the armor of yesterday’s knights: the spirit of the Beatitudes. Against the power, and let us be clear, against the domination of money, we must oppose the soul of the poor to whom the Lord has promised his assistance... 36 (Translation)
In closing his address, the Grand Master pressed the members of the Canadian Association to meditate on Cardinal Léger’s words since they reflected the basic mission of the Order because, Frà Andrew Bertie said, “all the good works which we undertake make sense only if they are accomplished within the spirituality of the Order.” 37
The Association’s office was moved from Montréal to Ottawa in 1995 and it was in the national capital, in 1999, that the three Orders of Saint John in Canada, the Order of Malta, the Priory in Canada of the Most Venerable Order of Saint John and the Canadian sub-commandery of the Johanniterorden celebrated the 900th anniversary of the Order of Saint John, in the presence of the Right Honourable Roméo LeBlanc, Governor General of Canada and representatives of the diplomatic corps during a solemn ecumenical service of thanksgiving presided over by Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic, Archbishop of Toronto and Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion of the Order.
A brief outline of the origins of the Canadian Association is, of necessity, a superficial overview and an incomplete compilation of its several and diverse activities from sea to sea. Even more so in light of the supra-national activities undertaken in response to urgent appeals following wars and calamities. In this respect, the Canadian Association is a member of the Order’s International Commission which answers calls wherever there are armed conflicts or natural disasters. Clearly, ever since its foundation in 1953, the Canadian Association has marched in the Order’s tradition. 38
Nowhere was it more evident than in Toronto during the World Youth Day, in July 2002, where, in the presence of His Holiness Pope John Paul II, a great many knights and dames of the Canadian Association, as well as a good number of volunteers from the Auxiliaries, took an active part in the proceedings by providing assistance to pilgrims with special needs on the site of the WYD.
The fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the Canadian Association allows us to reflect upon the message that Cardinal Léger gave in Rome, in 1954, since it has lost nothing of its immediacy:
The Church invites us to build a better world and She asks all her children to be authentic witnesses to the Gospels. May those who have the privilege of bearing the standard on which shines the Cross of Malta be among the first architects of this world. 39 (Translation)
At the outset of the twenty-first century, the Canadian Association of the Sovereign Order of Malta continues to walk in the footsteps of the North American pioneers, in the tradition of the Church and the Order; a tradition that has been present in the New World for nearly 400 years.
Every homily, every speech, every conference, has underlined this continuity of the Order’s tradition within the Faith. Thus, in his homily during the 1967 investiture, the Reverend Jonathan Robinson, Chaplain of the Order, eloquently underlined our role and mission. Because of its relevance, it is worth repeating the principal theme:
Our Association must be living testimony to the perennial character of our faith, a witness to the Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever. And, this afternoon, when you meet together to plan for the future, I beg you to remember that you are members of a Church which professes this social, dogmatic and perennial faith. You must not forget that your only hope for the future is to live this faith together as a group, so that the power of God and the love God may be made a little bit more manifest in this confused, dislocated age in which we live. Let us be zealous and repent, knowing that the Times are evil and the Church has need of loyalty and steadfastness and love. 40
The very same theme was developed again, in 1969, by another Chaplain of the Order, the Reverend Rodrigue Normandin, o.m.i., (†1977), former President of the University of Ottawa.
Again, because of its perennial relevance, it is worth quoting. Said the eminent academic and priest:
The members of the Order of Malta have always considered it their special duty, not only to preserve the faith, but also to defend it and to spread it. To achieve this, nothing is as necessary as personal witness. A witness must be based on solid convictions, on a sincere and loyal witness, on a discreet but efficacious witness and on a witness which engages the whole person. 41
Grand Chancellor Gwyn, present in Ottawa for the 1971 investiture, further defined the role of the modern member of the Order of Malta. After recalling that the United States had been, in 1928, the first Association created outside of Europe, followed by Canada in 1950, he said:
There is nothing too small or too unimportant for a member of the Order to undertake. Often, the small kindnesses have greater value than even large charitable works: reading to the blinds, helping poor people to fill out complicated Government forms, driving someone to hospital or outdoor clinic, visiting lonely old people in their homes, all these are acts of mercy and all are in the spirit of the Order. 42
Those words are a simple, yet practical guide to what members of the Order can do to fulfill their obligations to the Order and its spirit. During his visit to Canada, the Grand Master said that Canadians had much to celebrate in terms of accomplishments in addition to the various anniversaries that happily coincided with his first visit to Canada. “Truly,” he said, “you are a blessed country and people.”
DOCTOR ROBERT PICHETTE, CSt.J., ONB, D ès L, Dr. P. Ad., born in Edmundston, New Brunswick, in 1936, son of the late Hon. Mr. Justice J. Albert Pichette, QC, BA, LL.B., DCL, and his first wife, Mary Ann Duncan, is a journalist and writer. Retired from the provincial and federal public service, he was from 1963 to 1970, Executive Assistant & Deputy Minister to Premier Louis J. Robichaud and, simultaneously, was the first Director of Cultural Affairs for New Brunswick. He was an editorialist and columnist with the Acadian daily L’Acadie Nouvelle, columnist for the Globe and Mail and also with the Telegraph Journal. An authority on heraldry, he was one of the founding members, in 1966, of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada and its President. Governor General Roméo LeBlanc appointed him Dauphin Herald Extraordinary of the Canadian Heraldic Authority. Pichette is an elected member of the Académie internationale d’héraldique. He has authored some thirty books, mostly about Acadian history and heraldry and he was the creator, more than fifty years ago, of the New Brunswick flag. He was visiting professor of journalism at Université de Moncton. In 1998, Université Sainte-Anne, in Church Point, Nova Scotia, conferred an honorary doctorate of Literature on him. In 2014, the Université de Moncton awarded him an honorary doctorate in Public Administration. The Arts Council of New Brunswick awarded him the 2017 Lieutenant-Governor Award for Excellence in the French literary arts. Active for many years in Saint John Ambulance, he is a Commander of the Venerable Order of Saint John of Jerusalem and he is also a Knight Grand Cross of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. A member of the Order of New Brunswick since 2006, he is also an Officer of France’s National Order of the Legion of Honour, an Officer of France’s Order of Merit, a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters and a Knight of the Order of the Academic Palms of France as well as the Order of La Pléiade. He has two sons and a grand son and lives in Moncton.
1 Hormisdas Magnan, Dictionnaire historique et géographique des paroisses, missions et municipalities de la Province de Québec, Arthabaska, L’Imprimerie Arthabaska, Inc., 1925, p. 601 2 Read Robert Pichette, This Honourable Cross: The Orders of Saint John in the New World, Canadian Association, Ottawa, 1999. 3 Claire-Éliane Engel, Histoire de l’Ordre de Malte, Nagel, Genève, Paris, Munich, 1968, p. 266 4 Annual Report, 1958-59, p.8 5 Montreal, Palm Publishing, 1949, 222 p. 6 This book, while a pioneering effort, is unreliable as a source 7 Annual Report, 1963, p.5 8 Quintin Jermy Gwyn, Bailiff Grand Cross of Obedience, “A Knight of St. John Today”. Text of an address by Grand Chancellor Gwyn at the opening of the Conference of Grand Priors, Regents of Sub-Priories, Presidents of National Associations and Heads of Diplomatic Missions, held in Rome, 25-28 October 1970, Rome, Palazzo Malta, 1970, p.4-5 9 Letter from Cardinal Carter to the author, Toronto, 14 June 2001 10 Before his election to the papacy, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli had been a Bailiff Grand Cross of the Order 11 From an unnamed, undated press clipping in a Montréal newspaper in the author’s archives 12 Ibid 13 Annual Report, 1956-57, p.12 14 Ibid 15 Q.J.Gwyn, Vice-President and Chancellor, Bulletin to the Members of the Canadian Association, Montréal, 5 January 1960. The author’s archieves. 16 Conrad Langlois, “Le Cardinal Léger devient member de l’Ordre de Malte”, La Patrie, Montréal, Sunday, 5 December 1954, p. 69 and 108 17 RAPTIM was the anagram for the Latin Romana Associo Pro Transvehendis Missionnaris, i.e. Roman Association for the Transport of Missionaries 18 Annual Report, 1962, p.7 19 Annual Report, 1966, p.15 20 Toronto, 16 November 2001, press release: “Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute Launched today”. 21 Quoted by H.M.E.H. Frà Andrew Bertie, Grand Master of the Order, in a speech to members of the Canadian Association, Montréal, 26 September 1992 22 Ibid 23 Annual Report, 1957-58, p.7 24 At the time of his admission in the Order, on 11 June 1953 as a Chaplain of Magistral Obedience, Canon Carter was Principal of Jacques Cartier Normal School (English section) and President of Montréal’s Thomas More Institute for Adult Education. See The Montreal Ensign, 30 January 1954, p.111 25 Homily by Cardinal Carter, 24 June 1988, given in St. Paul’s Church (now St. Paul’s Basilica), Toronto, in A Tradition of Honour, The Canadian Association of the SMO of Malta, 1991, p.36. 26 These arms, which did not conform to the rules of heraldry, had been adopted and displayed in the Order’s pavilion at the Brussels World Fair. Proper arms have since been granted by the Chief Herald of Canada. 27 Annual Report, 1958-59, p. 12-13 28 On Madame Albani, read Pierre Vachon, “Emma Albani” Collection biographique Célébrités,Editions LIDEC inc., 2001 29 Annual Report, 1957-58, p.7. 30 annual Report, 1967, p.6. 31 Notes for Remarks by His Most Eminent Highness, Frà Andrew Bertie, Prince Grand Master, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, dinner in Toronto, 22 September 1992. 32 Notes for Remarks by His Most Eminent Highness, Frà Andrew Bertie, Prince Grand Master, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Good Shepherd Refuge, Toronto, 21 September 1992. 33 Annual Report, 1976, p.4 34 Johanniter Herald, vol. XVIII, no 2, p.4 35 Montréal, 25 September 1992, remarks by the Grand Master at St. Joseph’s Oratory 36 quoted by the Grand Master, Montréal 25 September 1992 37 Montréal, 26 September 1992, remarks by the grand Master to the members of the Canadian Association 38 See also Robert H. Keyserlingk, Robert Pichette, The Order of Malta: Past and Present/L’Ordre de Malte: passé et present, Canadian Association of the Order of Malta, Montréal, 1978 39 Quoted by H.M.E.H. Frà Andrew Bertie, Montréal, 25 September 1992 40 The Reverend Jonathan Robinson, homily in the Basilica-Cathedral of Ottawa, 6 December 1967, in annual Report, 1967, p.3 41 The Reverend Rodrigue Normandin, o.m.i. homily, 6 December 1969, in Annual Report, 1969-70, p. 10-11 42 Annual Report, 1970-71, p.14