Knights of St. John

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A semimilitary fraternal organization incorporated by a special act of the Legislature of the state of New York on May 6, 1886, as the Roman Catholic Union of the Knights of St. John. The name of the organization was changed by another special act on Feb. 20, 1896, to Knights of St. John, for the purpose of admitting to membership persons of all rites of the Catholic Church. The order was founded under the protection of St. John the Baptist, patron of the hospitallers of st. john of jerusalem, who were organized in the 12th century as a military order to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land from attack by the Turks and to assist those wounded or taken ill while traveling.

Among the objectives of the modern Knights of St. John were: to foster a feeling of fraternity among its members; to improve their moral, mental, and social condition; to aid and support members and their families in case of need; and to participate in a special way in the functions of the Catholic Church. The knights wore their uniforms when they exercised their privilege of serving as escort at the more important liturgical, ceremonial, and official functions of the Church and on many civic occasions. The central governing body, called the supreme commandery, comprised grand commanderies covering a given geographical area. The grand commanderies were made up of local commanderies, generally affiliated with a parish, and district commanderies, usually contained within a diocese.

[r. c. noonan/eds.]

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Knights of St. John

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