The beautiful Advent season is an opportunity for all of us to consider the gift of being members of the Order of Malta. I am regularly told by our members how much the Order has enriched their lives and how they look forward to seeing Order of Malta friends throughout the year, at Lourdes, at Investiture and at Area events.
My first year as President has been one marked with amazing joys and at the start of my Presidency, one major concern. Our Executive Director, Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Trexler was diagnosed with a very serious illness. His early prognosis was not assured. God answered the many prayers of so many of our members and today, Jeff is back leading our office and supporting all of you each day. This is truly a miraculous recovery. God Bless Jeff and his wife, Connie and thank you for all of your prayers in support of Jeff.
I wish to thank all 1,850 members across 32 Areas for the work you do to live out the Order of Malta’s charism to care for the sick and the poor and defend our beautiful Catholic faith. In 2018, the combined efforts of Knights, Dames and Auxiliary have contributed over 75,000 service hours in hands-on work at the Area level. In addition to this impressive volunteer effort, your recommendations for Area grants totaled over $400,000 that was contributed to projects, programs and charities in 2018 (not including Area contributions).
We added 86 new enthusiastic members to the American Association at the 2018 Investiture in October. The average age for new members this year was 56 and Dames accounted for over 40% of newly invested members. If you have enjoyed being a member of the Order as much as I have, I would encourage you to consider sponsoring a new member in 2019.
The Association concluded its third annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Wisconsin with almost one hundred pilgrims attending this year. This Pilgrimage has offered a unique opportunity for members of the Association and their families to gather in a sacred place; it is also a good example of the cooperation that is growing among the American, Federal and Western Associations. The Lourdes Pilgrimage, the Pilgrimage for Life and the two Association retreats provided important opportunities for our members to focus on their spirituality in the Order and grow as a community.
As 2018 comes to a close, the terms of service of two outstanding officers of the Association, Chancellor Dr. Richard Milone and Hospitaller Gail Berardino, come to a close. We thank both Dick and Gail for their tireless commitment to the Order of Malta and specifically for the many initiatives they created for our Order.
I wish all of you and your families a peace-filled and joyous Christmas and a very happy 2019.
Peter J. Kelly, MD, KM, President