About the Order The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and Malta is one of the oldest institutions of Western and Christian civilization. The 13,500 Knights and Dames remain true to its inspiring principles – nurturing, witnessing and protecting the faith and serving the poor and the sick.
The American Association Founded in 1927 as the first association of the Order of Malta in the Americas, the association is headquartered in New York City with over 2,000 Knights, Dames and volunteers in over 30 Areas working with the poor, sick, and incarcerated and giving witness to the Catholic faith.
Spirituality Knights and Dames join the Order of Malta to pursue their spiritual growth over a path laid out by Blessed Gerard more than nine hundred years ago, seeking to nurture and witness the Faith and assist the sick and the poor.
Spirituality in Action Members are involved in hands-on work at over 100 hundred organizations, including food banks, hospitals, pregnancy support centers, homeless shelters and mentoring programs for at risk children.
“Protecting the Faith and Serving the Sick and the Poor”
Blessed Gérard in the Hospital of Jerusalem – oil painting by Mattia Preti at the Oratory of St. John’s Co-Cathedral
In the 11th century the Knights of Malta, known then as ‘Knights Hospitaller’, established a hospital in Jerusalem to care for pilgrims of any religious faith or race. The work of the Hospitallers grew in fame and in 1113, Pope Paschal II officially recognised the monastic community as a lay religious order. The Pope identified the Hospitaller Gerard as the Order’s founder, together with an established group of monks – the ‘Professed’ – who are still at the heart of the Order of Malta today.
Throughout the centuries the number of members coming from all over Europe continued to grow and contributed to the strengthening of the Order during its presence in Rhodes (1310-1522) and in Malta (1530-1798). While members of the Order of Malta in former times traditionally belonged to the aristocracy, the emphasis today is on a nobility of spirit and conduct.
Fra Antonio Martelli – oil, painted in Malta by Caravaggio (1608), currently in Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy
The 13,500 Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta remain true to its inspiring principles, summarized in the motto “Tuitio Fidei et ObsequiumPauperum” – nurturing, witnessing and protecting the faith and serving the poor and the sick – which become reality through humanitarian projects and social assistance in 120 countries. Members must demonstrate dedication to these principles and are admitted country-by-country through Priories and national Associations including the American Association.
Over twenty Knights of the Order of Malta served in the American Revolutionary War, fourteen of whom became members of the Society of the Cincinnati. Many served with the French Navy assisting the Americans, including Admiral de Grasse, who commanded the fleet which kept the British from relieving General Cornwallis at Yorktown, bringing the war to an end.
In 1783, the Grand Master wrote a letter to Benjamin Franklin to communicate his acceptance of the “Libertas Americana” medal, awarded to him for the Order of Malta’s contribution to American independence. Click here to learn more about this letter.
In 1794 the Order of Malta discussed with the American envoy to France, James Monroe, the possibility of obtaining territory in the area of the new United States. In return, the Order would protect American shipping in the Mediterranean from the Barbary pirates. Monroe (later President, and sponsor of what became known as the “Monroe Doctrine”) was not disposed favorably to the idea, but passed the request on to President Washington. The Order was informed that it could settle in the American area but that sovereignty could not be ceded.
The American Association
The American Association, approved at the request of Pope Pius XI, was installed on April 28, 1927, with headquarters in New York City. It became the tenth National Association of the Order, and the first in the Western Hemisphere. From its small beginnings it has grown to approximately 1,800 Knights and Dames.
Knights and Dames at the annual Investiture, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City
There are 30 designated American Association Areas across the country with appointed Area Chairpersons. Knights and Dames assist in a broad number of charitable projects financially and with their hands-on volunteer efforts, totaling over 40,000 hours of service a year.
Emblematic of our commitment to the Order’s motto, The Association participates in the Annual Order of Malta International Pilgrimage to Lourdes with over 350 pilgrims traveling by chartered plane to support 50-60 sick Malades and their caregivers as our guests.
The Association holds its annual Investiture of new members each fall at our home church, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City celebrated by our Principal Chaplain, Archbishop of New York, presently His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan.
The Order of Malta has grown to three Associations in the United States; the Western Association founded in 1952 with headquarters in San Francisco, CA and the Federal Association founded in 1973 with its headquarters in Washington, D.C.