Malta’s New Knights, Dames Promise to Bear Witness to the Faith


With a promise in chivalrous fidelity, and calling on the name of God, new members of the Order of Malta were officially accepted into the order last week.

In all, 108 men and women were invested as knights and dames of magistral grace at the annual Investiture Mass for the American Association of the Order of Malta Nov. 3 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The principal celebrant and homilist was Bishop Jean Clément Laffitte, prelate of the Order of Malta and secretary emeritus of the Pontifical Council for the Family. He was joined by some 30 concelebrants. Attendance at the early afternoon Mass exceeded 1,000 and included current knights and dames, some there as sponsors of new members, others as a show of support.

Installed as magistral chaplains were Msgr. Sylvester J. Cronin of the Diocese of Fall River, Mass.; Father Salvatore DiStefano of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J.; and Father William Platt of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn.

“It is with immense joy to receive you today into our spiritual family,” Bishop Laffitte said in his homily. “You are in this church today because of a calling from God.”

He spoke of the importance of feeling empathy for the sick—as Jesus did when He healed a sick man and the Pharisees could not understand the profoundness of such empathy. And he underscored the significance, for new members of the order, of starting a deeper, more spiritual covenant with God.

Bishop Laffitte also reminded the new knights and dames that as members they should always be aware of “the privilege to serve, the privilege to love, the privilege to give.”

The candidates promised, in chivalrous fidelity and calling on the name of God, “always to bear witness to the Catholic Faith, to defend the Church, and to lead my life in accordance with the teachings of Holy Mother Church…”

Jack Pohrer, president of the American Association of the Order of Malta, then declared in part, “We are most pleased to hear your promise of commitment. We accept you as confreres among our number, as servants of our lords, the sick and the poor, and as witnesses of the Faith and defenders of the Church.”

Pohrer also said, “Brothers and sisters, we give you this Cross of the Order, this sign of Christ’s passion, of His love for all.” He then presented each new member with a Cross of the Order of Malta as they slowly walked to him as he stood at the steps of the sanctuary, with Bishop Laffitte standing by his side.

All current and new members were dressed in the traditional black Order of Malta robe. The new knights’ crosses were encased in black boxes; the new dames’ crosses, in dark red boxes. Earlier in the Mass, Pohrer said, “We have given you the garment of our Order. Wear it as the armor of God and as the mark of being a member of our Order, so that it may be for you the robe of salvation.”

Among the new dames was Patricia Besser, a parishioner of Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. “This is a special day for me,” Ms. Besser told CNY, noting the privilege of being with other new members “who plan to serve the poor and the sick, with the intention of reaching sanctification. I can’t imagine a higher goal…We (she and her family) try to live our faith as best we can.”

Among the new knights was Joseph Barragan, a parishioner at St. Michael the Archangel in Greenwich, Conn. “After a full year of preparation, and (understanding) deeper what the organization does, it makes the day just very special, to finally cross that path to become a knight,” Barragan said.

He added that the Catholic faith is “a guiding post” for him and his family.

Stephen J. Macri was invested as a knight last year, and his wife Theresa as a dame. He was at this year’s Mass as a show of support. He and his wife are parishioners of St. Charles on Staten Island.

“This Mass is incredibly special…Our Catholic faith has meant everything to me,” Macri told CNY. “It really defines our lives.”