April's first week saw tremendous, thoughtful activity on the part of the Order's leadership as the Board convened for one of its regular meetings and Hospitallers from across the Federal Association met to share information and discuss the varied activities of the Order's widely dispersed membership.
Hospitallers from nearly all 25 regions gathered at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. for a full day of discussion surrounding the major issues affecting the regions, from good works to challenges regarding grants and communication. Some of the Board members joined those meetings and continued their service to the Order as they convened their own full meeting at Georgetown the following day.
Meanwhile, the Class of 2015 began arriving to prepare for their Day of Formation on Thursday, April 3. A robust 59 Members joined together in an event that marked the official start to the Year of Formation, where candidates learn of the history and spirituality of the Order and participate in a series of service projects and spiritual activities. The process culminates in a solemn ceremony of Investiture the following October.
Msgr. James Watkins, Magistral Chaplain, celebrated Mass in Georgetown’s Dahlgren Chapel before the morning presentations. Candidates were introduced to the Order’s 900-year tradition of caring for the poor and the sick and defending the faith by Robert Signorelli, Hospitaller for Houston, and Margaret Melady, Vice-President of the Federal Association. The “Regulations and Commentary” were also imparted, as the foundation of the Order and the basis for its longevity. There was a short introduction to the works of the Order, including an overview of Malteser International, Holy Family Hospital, and of course our annual pilgrimage to Lourdes.
The staff of the Federal Association is to be commended for its leadership and hard work in organizing three full days with more than 100 people. Also, grateful thanks on behalf of the leadership go out to all who participated, making the Order an integral part of their everyday lives.
Although these individuals gathered in Washington, DC last week represent us all, it is the work of the Members, day after day, that makes God's work through the Order present for thousands more. Whether it be bringing to life the Word of God at the Catholic Cafe in Memphis, or lending a hand at a soup kitchen in Chicago, or attending a day of reflection, or painting a building, or praying, our Members are the Order and the Order is its Members.
We welcome the Class of 2015 to this confraternity and we pray for the renewed involvement of every Member, with whatever time and resources they have to give. Hundreds will soon convene, along with our newest class, for the annual pilgrimage to Lourdes, experiencing the mission of the Order of Malta firsthand, creating and renewing faithful alliances to improve the lives of those to whom we devote ourselves daily.
As our daily prayer so eloquently calls us to ask:
"Give me the strength I need to carry out this my resolve, forgetful of myself, learning ever from the holy Gospel a spirit of deep and generous Christian devotion, striving ever to promote God's glory, the world's peace, and all that may benefit the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. Amen."
Prison Ministry: New Kind of Work
In 2010, the Federal Association began what would become a new kind of work – supporting and praying for our neighbors who have been incarcerated and are returning to what we hope and pray will be productive lives in society.
At that time, the Washington, D.C. region used a $20,000 grant to fund 1,000 “welcome home” kits, containing practical necessities such as bus tokens, tissues, clothing and spiritual reading materials.
Since then, interest in this work has spread throughout the Federal Association, which is now engaged in supporting 30 new entrants to society from prison. The thrust of this effort is a greeting card ministry in which Members communicate monthly through simple cards and gestures of compassion and encouragement with men and women throughout the greater Washington, D.C. area.
The work, now co-chaired by Mike McGarry and Collins Whitfield, continues to seek participants, and invites your inquiries and your prayers.