- New Orleans, LA
The Grand Commandery of the South supports a wide range of charitable activities. Our efforts largely focus on outreach within our Commandery’s geographic boundaries. In addition, members of our Commandery generously support the national and international charitable efforts of the American Association of the Order of St. Lazarus, the charitable arm of the Grand Priory. The Grand Commandery of the South consistently leads in giving through the annual Pentecostal Appeal.
In the healthcare arena, the Grand Commandery of the South is a long-time supporter of Luke’s House Free Medical Clinic which provides healthcare for the poor and underserved in Central City, New Orleans. Originally sponsored by Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church, Luke’s House has evolved into an ecumenical effort. The Grand Commandery of the South has donated patient examining tables, ceiling-mounted patient enclosure curtains, a replacement laptop computer, and a year’s worth of i-Stat diagnostic cartridges for the accompanying hand-held blood analysis device. Our Commandery also helped supply Ochsner Clinic Foundation with a patient mobility aid known as the “Rifton TRAM”, a lift-ambulate-transfer-mobility device which gives gait training, sit-to-stand transfers, and seated transfers, to patients who have a physical disability or who are recovering from the effects of a stroke.
The Commandery is involved with community outreach. We have supported All Souls Episcopal Church and Community Center in the lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans which offers programs for children ranging from summer-camp violin classes to after-school sewing classes. Our Commandery funded two refrigerators for St. Michael Special School which assists special-needs children of all faiths. Members generously supported the construction of the Fr. Val Ambrose McInnes, OP, Center for Catholic Life at Tulane University. For several years, through our American Citizenship Project, our Commandery members have provided one-on-one instruction to documented immigrants in their journey to become American citizens.
We continue our interest in prison ministry. The Grand Commandery of the South supports Kairos-LCIW prison ministry for the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women in St. Gabriel, Louisiana. Annually our Commandery donates funds to Cornerstone Builders, sponsored by Associated Catholic Charities, to provide bus transportation for family members to visit incarcerated loved ones on the Saturday before Christmas.
Extending beyond New Orleans, the Grand Commandery of the South has helped provide laptop computers to St. Mary’s Home Trailblazer Academy Program in Mobile, Alabama, serving middle and high school students from disrupted and troubled families. Our Commandery has supported Arkansas’ Logan County Single Parent Scholarship Fund, Tangipahoa Parish Food Bank, and Saint Mary of False River Church in Pointe Coupee Parish.
Our Commandery is an associate member of the Louisiana Interchurch Conference, our statewide council of churches, which represents diverse communions by holding assemblies and other means of cooperative prayer to promote the cause of Christian unity, while speaking to the state in the united voice of the churches.
The Grand Commandery of the South is the champion sponsor of two endeavors supported by the American Association of the Order of St. Lazarus: funding the keynote address at the National Workshop for Christian Unity and AMAR International Charitable Foundation, providing humanitarian assistance to displaced women and children in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Having its base in historic New Orleans, Louisiana, the Grand Commandery of the South comprises a region and population well known for its Christian commitment, chivalric traditions and charitable undertakings. The first recorded instance of a knight of Saint Lazarus was noted in 1710 in what was then the French colony of Louisiana. More than twenty pioneer French Louisiana families counted members who were knights or officers of the Order, while many of their ancestors were active Lazarites in the Holy Land and France during medieval times.
New Orleanians’ care of sufferers of Hansen’s disease (then known as leprosy) began in Spanish colonial times and accelerated through the period of Americanization with the founding of the National Leprosarium at Carville, Louisiana. With the official establishment of the Order of Saint Lazarus in Louisiana in the 20th century, its membership commenced its continuing support of Hansen’s disease research and diagnosis.
Only five years after the Order of Saint Lazarus inaugurated its Grand Priory of America, New Orleanians formed the Southern Delegation in the American bicentennial year of 1976. Principal founders were Delegate Harold Stream, Almoner Charles Gresham, Grand Prior Monsignor Patrick Ryan, and Bailiff Dr. Hans von Leden. On January 30 of that year, 14 postulants were invested in New Orleans’ historic Saint Louis Basilica. Archbishop Philip M. Hannan of New Orleans delivered the homily and was created a Grand Prelate of Merit. Two days later, members made the 75-mile trip up the Mississippi River to the National Leprosarium at Carville for celebration of Sunday Holy Mass.
The Delegation of the South rapidly grew to a Commandery and to a Grand Commandery, comprising the contiguous states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas, all of which had been part of the old Louisiana province. On January 11, 2003, the Grand Commandery of the South formally celebrated its reaching 100 members.
Several years after the organization of the Commandery, a prominent local banker, J. Luis Baños, joined the Order, and it was he who proposed locating the National Shrine in Our Lady of Victory Church in the Old Ursuline Convent. Also, very early in the life of the Commandery, Father Val McInnes became one of our chaplains. Notable among the members was Dame Grand Cross Corinne “Lindy” Claiborne Boggs (1916-2013), a United States Representative, champion of equal rights, and Ambassador to the Holy See during 1997-2001.
Over the Commandery’s approximate forty-year history, a number of New Orleanians have served as Commander: Harold Stream, Ernie Carrere, Truman Woodward, William H. Johnston, George T. Schneider, C. Fredrick Dahlberg, Jr., Kenneth E. Newburger, Herschel L. Abbott, Jr., Hugh R. Straub, and currently, James R. Jeter, Jr.
The Grand Commandery of the South has several annual events and marks dates of special import. Guests are always welcome. Beginning in January, members observe the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, followed by the White Mass held for the medical profession, and a Spring Retreat led by a Commandery Chaplain. Subsequently, there are a Healing Service, spring commodities collection and social gathering, several Scripture Study meetings in members’ homes, and a lessons and carols service in celebration of Saint Lazarus Day on December 17. Most of the events are followed by luncheons or dinners, with a black tie dinner following the Saint Lazarus Day service.