Priory History

History of the Priory of St James

The Priory of St. James of the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem officially came into being on Saturday, October 1st, 2005 at the Second Annual Convent & Investiture of the former Commandery of St. James. In a little less than one year, the Toronto organization has grown from 15 members to more than 30 members.

In April 1998, RADM Chev. James J. Carey, the Grand Prior at the time of the Grand Priory of the United States, invited his friend and fellow Zeta Psi Fraternity Board member, Capt. George G. McNeillie III, to be invested into the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem.

He became a member of the Priory of St. Patrick in a ceremony at the Cadet Chapel at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Because there was no Templar group in Canada at the time, Chev. George remained a “long distance” member of the Priory of St. Patrick, unable (due to the 500-mile distance) to participate much in that Priory’s activities.

In August 2003, Chev. George met with Chev. James (who had become International Grand Commander of Ordo Supremus Militi Templi Hierosolymitani –OSMTH– the international governing body of the Knights Templar) at their fraternity convention in Orlando, FL and discussed opportunities for bringing the organization to Canada. Chev. James noted that he was already working with a group in Windsor, Ontario, but that he was sure they would welcomeChev. George’s participation.

In late January of 2004, Chev. George arranged for Chev. James to be a guest speaker at the Royal Canadian Military Institute in Toronto. This speaking engagement was organized by Chev., George’s friend and brother officer in the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, LCol Ed Rayment, and was most enthusiastically endorsed by the club’s president Matthew Gaasenbeek, III.

Chev. James came to speak at the RCMI on Wednesday, 28 January 2004. Among the invited guests were: Cdr. The Ven. Chev. Ronald Matthewman, Prior of the newly-established Canadian Priory of the Ascension of Our Lord in Windsor; Cdr. Chev. Frederick Knight, Chancellor; Col. Chev. Rae Martin; Lcdr Chev. Peter Kelly and Chev. Terry Davis, Prior of the Priory of St. Clair in Detroit (from which the Priory of the Ascension of Our Lord had sprung).

“In a little less than one year, the Toronto organization has grown from 15 members to more than 30 members.”

Thereafter, throughout the spring, a correspondence took place among Chev. Ron, Chev. James and Chev. George. Chev. Ron and Chev. George also met in Toronto to discuss a strategy for creating a new Commandery and Chev. George set up a meeting for Chev. Ron with The Very Rev. Douglas Stoute, Anglican Dean of Toronto, to seek approval to use the Cathedral Church of St. James to host the first investiture (Chev. George was, at that time, Chair of Sidespersons at the Cathedral). The Dean graciously consented and offered to participate in the ceremonies.

A date was then set for the first Toronto Convent & Investiture: Saturday, October 2nd, 2004. In honour of the Dean’s kindness, it was decided to name the new Toronto group the Commandery of St. James (although it should be noted that this did not imply either a formal or legal relationship between the Cathedral and the Commandery).

Matthew Gaasenbeek indicated great interest in the Templars and was immensely helpful in the formation of the new group. He kindly offered the new organization a special class of membership at the RCMI for not-for-profits.

Chev. George then set about to recruit new members. A Templar information evening and reception was held on June 24th, 2004 at the RCMI to introduce prospective members to the group. This was attended by 25 guests, seven of whom became Postulants.

On July 5th, 2004, Chev. George met with Maj. Timothy Zack, a Postulant to the Priory of St. Patrick, who had missed his investiture due to military service. He asked to be invested at the Toronto group’s planned investiture ceremony, and he introduced Chev. George to Wing Cdr. Benjamin Lee of Hong Kong; to Capt. Arjeh van der Sluis (who was recently invested into the Order of Merit); to Col. Chev. Maurice Janeczko (also of St. Patrick’s and who has become an associate of St. James); to his wife Christina Zawierucha-Zack (who became a member of the Priory of St. James in October 2005) and to LCol Walter Perchal, Commanding Officer of the Royal Regiment of Canada (who was invested in November 2005).

In August 2004, Chev. George asked his friend Jo Perrin if she would host a reception for Chev. James. She generously put her gracious home at our disposal and this splendid event occurred on Tuesday, August 10th, 2004. Chev. James’ presence helped obtain an additional seven new Postulants, bringing the total number to 14 which, with Chev. George, accounted for 15 members – enough to acquire Commandery status.

“In honour of the Dean’s kindness, it was decided to name the new Toronto group the Commandery of St. James.”

It would be difficult to fully describe the amount of work required to set up the new group in Toronto. Literally, hundreds of hours were spent recruiting Postulants, setting up receptions, liaising with what (in May 2004) would become the Grand Priory of Canada; processing applications; ordering mantles, insignia and brevets; arranging for a piper, photographer, sexton; organizing the banquet; printing programs, etc. Needless to say, none of this could have been undertaken without the immense help of; RADM Chev. James Carey (who was the ’eminencegris’ and a prime moving force in making this all happen); Cdr. The Ven. Chev. Ron Matthewman, Grand Prior of Canada and his wonderful group (too numerous to name, but Chev. Fred Knight, Chev. Rae Martin, Chev. Peter Kelly certainly stand out); H.E. Chev. Terry Davis (then Prior of the Priory of St. Clair); and also then-Postulant Matthew Gaasenbeek.

The first Annual Convent and Investiture of the Commandery of St. James took place at the Cathedral Church of St. James on Saturday, October 2nd, 2004. Fifteen Postulants were invested (including Maj. Timothy Zack, who was being invested on behalf of the Priory of St. Patrick), and Chev. George was elevated to Knight Commandeur and invested as Commander of the new Commandery. The beautiful and moving ceremony was conducted by the Members of the Priories of the Ascension of Our Lord and St. Clair, assisted by the Very Rev. Douglas Stoute, Dean of Toronto and the Rev. Canon David Brinton, OGS, Sub-Dean and Vicar of the Cathedral. Music was provided by the Cathedral’s Director of Music and Organist, Michael Bloss and by Pipe Major John Wakefield.

“The first Annual Convent and Investiture of the Commandery of St. James took place at the Cathedral Church of St. James on Saturday, October 2nd, 2004.”

Since the Priory of the Ascension of Our Lord did not hold its own Investiture until the following month, the Commandery of St. James’ Investiture was, coincidentally, the first Templar Investiture performed by the new Grand Priory of Canada on Canadian soil. It proved to be an excellent “practice session” for the Grand Priory and was much appreciated by the new members in Toronto. The ceremonies were followed by a cocktail reception and banquet at the Royal Canadian Military Institute where the new members were awarded their brevets.

The second Annual Convent & Investiture was held on Saturday, October 1st, 2005 at the Cathedral Church of St. James and was again followed by a cocktail reception and banquet at the RCMI.

The Commandery has since been elevated to Priory status.

Priory History written by Captain George G. McNeillie

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