In addition to the four states below, the Commandery of the Southeast also includes Puerto Rico.
- Atlanta, GA
- South Carolina
From the earliest days of its existence, the Commandery of the Southeast has advanced its chivalrous and charitable purposes through many worthwhile efforts. Initially, members volunteered for duty in the intensive care unit of a local children’s hospital, providing personalized comfort and solace to patients and their families. This spirit of personal service has survived to the present, most notably in efforts to support and expand our nation’s organ donation program, and Commandery volunteers traveling to India to provide medical and humanitarian assistance to leprosy clinics supported by the Order.
In the early 1990’s through 2006, the Commandery focused its philanthropic efforts on the transportation needs of local and regional nonprofit service organizations by providing passenger vans and/or refrigerated trucks to assist the following organizations in serving the needs of their specific constituencies: the Atlanta Community Food Bank; the Council on Battered Women; Sheltering Arms Child Care Services; the Partnership Children and Project Open Hand, the country’s largest preparer and transporter of meals for the needy.
More recent charitable activities have included support of the University of Miami’s Hansen’s Disease Clinic (to assist with transportation of their patients and patients’ families to the clinic for treatment), St. Joseph’s Mercy Care Clinic in Atlanta providing medical support for the homeless, Amigos for Christ’s orthopedic clinics in Nicaragua, Emory University Hansen’s Disease Clinic in Atlanta, Peg Leg Pirates in Tampa, FL (provide prosthetic devices and aid to amputees), Georgia Transplant Foundation, Buckhead Christian Ministries which provides assistance and financial aid to homeless families in Atlanta.
In addition to the above charitable activities, in 2015, the Commandery began supporting the Iraqi Christian Relief Council which provides medical and humanitarian support to Christian refugees that have been driven from their villages and homes by ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Support for these organizations continued in 2016, and the Commandery also sent assistance to Rising Star Outreach’s leprosy clinics and colonies in India which suffered from devastating floods at the end of 2015. The charities which the Southeast Commandery supports are funded through the generosity of our Commandery’s local bi-annual charitable giving campaign.
Additionally, our members volunteered their time and efforts in numerous areas of charitable interest in the community including Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness programs, both locally and nationally, Catholic and Orthodox Ecumenical Services, the Buckhead Christian Ministries and the Rising Star Outreach.
Perhaps the most unique symbol of the Commandery’s charitable efforts may be found in the sanctuary of Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Atlanta, where a stained glass window dedicated to the Order of Saint Lazarus was generously donated by one of our members. Emblazoned with the green cross of Saint Lazarus and guarded by our Commandery’s flag, this perpetual memorial symbolizes our organization’s commitment to Christian service for those less fortunate.
The Order of St. Lazarus first appeared in the Southeast during the Revolutionary War when one of its knights, Comte d’Hervilly of France, served with distinction as an officer in the assault which liberated Savannah from British occupation. It would be many years before Lazarite knights would again serve the Southeast, but more than two centuries later, the Commandery of the Southeast honors this knight’s service to our nation by displaying his coat of arms on its Commandery flag.
As the Order of St. Lazarus began to grow in America, the Commandery of the South looked to expand beyond its Louisiana borders. Accordingly, a sub jurisdiction of the Order – called a “Lieutenancy” – was formed in Georgia in the early 1980s. Among its charter members were Richard C. Everett, Edward G. Hitt, Jr. and Sam C. Inman, and the journey began.
By 1988, the membership list had grown to 56, from Atlanta to Key West to Charleston. The nascent Lieutenancy had grown in an amazing short period of time, and was now deserving of a more lofty status and became the Commandery of the Southeast covering members in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee. The Cadre of Puerto Rico was transferred to the Commandery of the Southeast in 2012.
From May 5 – 8, 1988, some 250 members from across the globe attended the Grand Prioral Council of the Order held in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a glorious affair to celebrate not only the inauguration of the new Commandery of the Southeast, but to honor the Order’s Protector, Patriarch Maximos V Hakim, on the occasion of his 80th birthday. Many attended the festivities, including princes, nobles and even a grandson of Queen Victoria.
Over the years, the Commandery has been served by a steady procession of prominent Commanders, starting with Edward G. Hitt, Jr., Richard C. Everett, Scott G. Thompson, Edward P. Vollertsen, III, Jack S. Schroder, Jr., Dr. Harold R. Penton and currently Charles L. Bearden who was installed as Commander at the Grand Prioral Council in New Orleans in 2016.
From its humble beginnings as a lieutenancy three decades ago led by only three members, the Commandery of the Southeast has generated a proud history as a vital contributor to the Order’s chivalric mission. As the other web pages on this site demonstrate, the Commandery provides unique leadership in the Order’s local charitable efforts, furnishes officers to serve in high-ranking positions of the national Order, and offers its members an important outlet for their civic and philanthropic aspirations.
From hosting annual meetings of the Order attended by hundreds to arranging small informal cocktail parties, from pilgrimages to the Holy Land to regional weekend retreats in the mountains, from filling high office in the Order’s hierarchy to serving on numerous committees – the activities of the Commandery of the Southeast are notable and varied.
Members of the Commandery participate in many activities on an international and local scale. Each year the Order convenes meetings in such cities as Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans, Chicago, Toronto, Dublin, Vienna and Mexico City. But Commandery members do much more than travel – they also serve the Order in highly important positions. For example, Scott G. Thompson serves in the crucial post of Treasurer of the American Association of the Order of Saint Lazarus, Inc., the charitable arm of our Order, and John Byrnes as the Hospitaller for the Order.
On the local front, Commandery activities include a yearly vespers service, an annual meeting and dinner at a prominent private club, weekend retreats to resort locations such as Asheville, Callaway Gardens, and Burge Plantation, participation in church dedications and other significant religious services, and informal social gatherings at members’ homes. These activities serve to instill camaraderie of fellowship and service among Commandery members, providing an impetus for our charitable and chivalric activities. Consistent with the Order’s ecumenical mission, religious services have been held in such churches as Saint Philip’s Cathedral, the Cathedral of Christ the King, Saint James United Methodist Church, Holy Spirit Catholic Church and Sardis United Methodist Church.
Every seven years the Commandery organizes and hosts the Annual Meeting of the Grand Priory of America, where members from across the country and the world convene to renew friendships, discuss the philanthropic and other business of the Order, and invest new members. To date, the Commandery of the Southeast has hosted annual meetings in Atlanta in 1988, 1995 and 2002, in Savannah in 2010, and in Charleston in 2016.
Together, the members of the Southeast Commandery enjoy these and many other opportunities to serve their fellow man in furtherance of the example set by our patron saint, Lazarus.