History of the Priory of St. Vincent
Acts 2:17 says, Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. The Priory of St. Vincent is a dream and a vision come true and its history is full of more of the same. Several members of the Priory of St. Andrew first dreamed of a South Carolina priory in 1993, largely because they wanted an alternative to the twice-a-year 300- to 500-mile drive to Nashville. They shared their dream in January, 1994 with Grand Prior VIII, Chev. Donald Robert Weber, GCTJ, GMTJ (1991-1993) and Grand Prior IX, COL Chev Donald Roderick Perkins, GCTJ, GMTJ (1994-1996), both of whom heartily supported the dream of a South Carolina priory.
Chev. Gene Boyer Fee, Sr., GOTJ of the Priory of St. Andrew wrote letters about establishing an or- ganization in the Carolinas to about twenty knights and dames, asking for their responses and comments. Members of the Priory of St. Andrew discussed the idea at their next two convents and agreed to support a Carolina commandery. "Approximately twenty knights were invited to attend a meeting at the Fort Jackson Officer's Club [in Columbia, South Carolina]," Fee says. "The first meeting on 18 December 1994 was incon- clusive. They liked the name St. Columba, but balked at only being a Commandery."
"The second meeting on January 11, 1996 was more successful,” Fee remembers. "Chev. Chester Fairbanks Cotter, GCTJ, GMTJ, of New York and Beaufort, South Carolina stepped up to the plate and as- sumed the leadership as commander. The Grand Prior made an exception for Chev. Cotter to start the Com- mandery of St. Vincent (the patron saint of wine makers and viticulturists) with only six officers. Cotter and his wife Pat hosted the first officers meeting and convent in Beaufort on February 23, 1996. St. Vincent be- came a priory at its Vernal Convent on April 19, 1997 at St. Helena's Episcopal Church in Beaufort."
Cotter became the first Prior. St. Vincent grew slowly at first, but the deep commitment to service of its members and its strong leaders made up for quantity. The ensuing years saw growth in membership and program. Prior II, LTC Chev. Charles Lockhart McLendon, GCTJ helped the priory increase its membership. Prior IV, Chev. George Louis Custodi, GOTJ, opened the officer meetings to all members, emphasized the spiritual side of being a knight or dame and encouraged the refashioning of the postulants vigil and surround- ing activities to foster more spirituality. Prior V, Dr. Chev. Robert Earl Alexander, GOTJ continued his predecessor's work with diplomacy and grace. Prior VI, Chev. Joseph Albert Sadowski, Sr., GOTJ focused on retaining members by involving as many knights and dames as he could. Prior VII, Chev. Duncan Cairnes Ely, GOTJ, moved St. Vincent's flag from the priory's birthplace in Beaufort to the geographical center at Columbia. "One of my goals is to encourage members to gather locally in preceptories for hands-on service, for mutual support and good times," Ely says. "Making our small part of the world a better place is what we are all about and preceptories are one way we can do that.” The Grand Priory so far has stood up three pre- ceptories: St. Christopher in Columbia and the Midlands, Holy Chalice in Aiken and Augusta and The Rock in the Upstate areas of Greenville-Spartanburg and the Carolina Foothills.
The vision of a reconceived postulants vigil and surrounding events, reflecting a deeper commitment and spirituality by postulants and members alike, is part of every convent and investiture weekend. The dream of sponsoring a Holy Land Christian student, Michael Lorenzo of Ramleh at $1,300 a year, is now part of the priory's budget. The dream of initiating a priory medal and creating the priory coat of arms came true.
Four priory members have had visions of making a difference on a national level. Chevaliers Alexan- der (past Acting Grand Aumonier), Custodi (Deputy Grand Prior for Region III), Fee (Grand Photographeur) and Ely (Chaplain Domicilary to the late Grand Chaplain and Assistant Grand Editeur) are serving or have served the Grand Priory in various capacities.
"Our lives are a part of history," Fee says. "We each have a personal story and a life full of events. We can explore our own individual lives for the traces of God's presence and action." Priory members are exploring, dreaming and visioning: the next fifty years will bear witness to those new and exciting realities.
What is the Significance of Our Royal Patron?
A member of a royal family can become a representative or supporter of an organization as a patron, working to help promote and recognize the group's work. HM Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom for instance, is the Royal Patron for numerous organizations – ranging from science and the arts to healthcare and the military. What does it mean for the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem to have a Royal Patron?
Many orders of knighthood, or orders of chivalry, were founded or inspired by the Catholic military orders of the Crusades, paired with concepts of chivalry prevalent during the Middles Ages, often formed by groups of individuals. The Knights Templar were ultimately recognized by the Pope, Dynastic orders came into being in the 13th century. These orders were established under royal patronage – that is by the royal family of a current or formerly sovereign state. Thus the royal patron, with respect to these orders of knighthood, was seen as the fount of honor – an individual who has the right to confer legitimate titles and orders.
According to the International Commission for Orders of Chivalry a genuine order of chivalry must have a fount of honor (“fons honorum” in Latin) as either its founder or as its principal patron to be considered genuine. Another indication of legitimacy is recognition by international bodies.
With our current Royal Patron, HRH Elisabeth Marie Alexandra zu Ysenburg und Büdingen zu Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg (HRH Elisabeth), and through our status as a United Nations Non-Governmental-Organization (NGO) the authenticity of our chivalric order is doubly confirmed. What follows is some information about our Royal Patron.
Her Royal Highness Princess Elisabeth has been the Royal Patron of the Grand Priory of the USA since 1996. She was a guest at several SMOTJ events and, with the encouragement of BG Chev. Patrick Rea, was formally invested as a member of the Order in 1995 in the Priory of St. John the Baptist. She accepted the role of patron for the Grand Priory within a year and is the first royal personage to assume that position since the death of HRM King Peter II of Yugoslavia in 1970.
She has honored the Grand Priory by attending, supporting and participating in many of the SMOTJ events since then, including a reception and dinner for The Reverend Canon Andrew White hosted by the Priory of St. David of Wales at the Algonquin Club of Boston in 2010. She was awarded the Grand Cordon of the GPUSA Order of Merit in 1996. Subsequently, she agreed to become the Royal Patron of the Sovereign Military Order Temple of Jerusalem (OSMTH).
Princess Elisabeth is the widow of His Serene Highness Prince Ferdinand Heinrich of Ysenburg and eldest daughter of Prince Friedrich Ferdinand of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg. Her mother is Duchess Anastasia of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. She is the great-granddaughter of Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia, wife of Grand Duke Friedrich Franz III of Mecklenburg- Schwerin, and daughter of Grand Duke Michael of Russia, younger son of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia.
Princess Elisabeth is descended twice from Empress Catherine II “the
Great” of Russia. Also, she is a great-great-granddaughter of King
Christian IX of Denmark and a great-great-great-great granddaughter of
King George III of Great Britain, America’s last King. Princess Elisabeth of
Ysenburg is a third cousin of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II of the United
Current Prior: (2022-present) Prior X Shandi Botsko, PhD., GOTJ
Priors of the Priory of St. Vincent
|Prior I Chev. Chester Fairbanks Cotter, GCTJ, GMTJ (1997-2001)|
|Prior II Chev. C. Lockhart McLendon, GCTJ (2001-2003)|
|Prior III Chev. George T. Sheftall, GOTJ (2003-2005)|
|Prior IV Chev. George Louis Custodi, GOTJ (2005-2007)|
|Prior V Chev. Robert Earl Alexander, Ed.D., GOTJ (2007-2009)|
|Prior VI Chev. Albert Joseph Sadowski, GOTJ (2009-2011)|
|Prior VII Chev. Duncan Cairnes Ely, GOTJ (2011-2013)|
|Prior VIII Chevse. Lois B. Krause, GOTJ (2013-2015)|
Prior IX Chevse. Dina G. Boorda, Esq., GOTJ (2015-2016)
Prior X Chev. David A. Botsko, PhD., GOTJ (2016-2022