Jan. 8, 2004 – Five Virgin Islands residents were among 20 individuals invested as dames and chevaliers of the new Commandery of the West Indies of the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller, Thursday night on St. Croix.
The investiture ceremony, the first for the new commandery, took place at St. John's Episcopal Church in Christiansted.
V.I. residents invested into the 900-year-old order in recognition of their service to faith and humanity, according to a release, were:
– The Rev. Wilford Daniel, dean of St. John's Episcopal Church.
– Dr. Alfred O. Heath, physician, retired U.S. Army brigadier general, former Health commissioner and church eucharist minister and lector.
– Luz Highfield, educator and volunteer on behalf of the Central High School accreditation team, family and child advocacy, the arts and historic preservation.
– Bernice Kight, executive director of the Prosser-ICC Foundation and volunteer with educational outreach, church and child advocacy programs.
– Dr. Roy L. Schneider, physician and former governor.
Samuel E. Ebbesen, senior vice president of Innovative Communication Corp., was invested in the order's Military Hospitaller Commandery. A retired Army lieutenant general, he sits on the board of Overseas Private Investment Corp. and of several educational and service organizations and is involved in developing a veterans center.
The Knights Hospitaller are embarked on "the new crusades," according to the West Indies commander, Jay Hirsch. He described these efforts as "a 21st century reaffirmation of the original hospitaller work of the order — protection of women and children, and the sick and poor of the Lord. We are here to fight poverty, ignorance and disease. We are here to restore honor and dignity through service to our righteous God."
Part-time St. Croix resident Dawn Prosser, the vice commander of the new commandery, was previously invested as a dame in a ceremony in Palm Beach, Fla., the release stated.
Among the others invested at the St. Croix ceremony were Penelope Ettinger, managing director, Bayshore Bank and Trust of Barbados; Owen Bethel, president and managing director, Montique Securities International Ltd.; John Pierce Archer of Palm Beach, Fla.; and Ted Guillo, Cleveland, Ohio, real estate attorney and philanthropist.
The order's international headquarters is in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Commandery of the West Indies is based on St. Croix and is part of the Grand Priory of the Americas; there are other Grand Priories in Europe and Australia.
The Knights Hospitaller "is the oldest order of chivalry still in existence, the third-oldest religious organization in Christendom," according to the release. "After centuries of battles in the holy lands and the Mediterranean Sea, and winning the siege of Malta, a battle fought to save Christianity and secure civilization as we now know it, the knights turned west."
The Order of St. John purchased St. Croix in 1651 from the French, along with other French holdings in the Caribbean, and records show that "as many as 600 knights lived on St. Croix in the mid-to-late 17th century," the release stated. At the insistence of King Louis XIV, the order sold the island back to the French West Indies Company, which sold it to the Danish West Indies Company.
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