It was only a few short years ago that the Order of Malta did not have a presence in South Carolina at all.
Now, the ancient order has active members in the Charleston, Beaufort and Rock Hill deaneries and members hope it sparks an explosion of growth and even more good works.
Natalie and Cameron Jackson, from Our Lady of Grace Church in Indian Land, are two of the newest members. They were invested at The Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C., in September, along with Thomas Hartnett of Mount Pleasant.
Natalie said they were drawn to the Knights of Malta because the order’s charism speaks to their hearts, calling them to a deeper prayer life and a way to serve Christ and his Church through outreach.
In March, before they were officially invested, the couple joined forces with students from Wingate University and the Missionaries of the Poor in Jamaica, serving the sick and the poor.
Natalie said she now truly knows what it means to be the hands and feet of Christ, and to see His face in others. Of the many encounters she shared with the residents, she said one of the most beautiful — and miraculous — was daily prayer time.
“People had profound disabilities so it was often hard to understand, but when they prayed the Hail Mary it was clear as a bell,” she said.
The mission trip is a prime example of what the Knights of Malta are all about: serving others and professing the faith. It is what they’ve been doing since their formation more than 900 years ago in Jerusalem.
Joe Tronco, who is actively recruiting new members in the Charleston area, said the Knights of Malta are slightly older than another ancient order, the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, both formed in the birthplace of Christ in the 11th century. A prime difference between the two is that Holy Sepulchre Knights are dedicated to preserving the faith in the Holy Land while Malta Knights are engaged in spreading the faith and performing corporal works of mercy in the United States and other countries.
In Charleston, Tronco said they are working with Our Lady of Mercy Outreach on Johns Island and Neighborhood House in Charleston.
“It’s right up the alley of what the Order of Malta should be concerning themselves with,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Bluffton group, who will have six new members invested in 2020, is also finding its stride.
Diana Shertenlieb describes them as a region in formation and said they have plans to carry out their calling in a spiritual and physical way, and she hopes even more people will be moved to join them.
So far, they serve the Pregnancy Center & Clinic of the Low Country and Mercy Mission in Hardeeville. The group is also hosting an outreach for the residents of Carter May on Jan. 25 at the Chapel of the Holy Family in Charleston, an event the other Malta Knights are participating in as well.
One thing all the members mention is the profound and life-altering experience of the annual trip to Our Lady of Lourdes in France. Diana said watching the Knights of Malta take care of people there makes her heart sing.
“I have to say I’ve never seen so many good people in all my life,” she said.
For more information, visit www.orderofmaltafederal.org.