The Bible teaches us in Acts 2:17 that “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 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 to about twenty knights and dames about establishing an organization in the Carolinas, 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 for reservations at the Fort Jackson Officer's Club [in Columbia, South Carolina],” Fee says. “The first meeting on l8 December 1994 was inconclusive. They liked the name St Columba, but balked at only being a Commandery.”
The second meeting on January 11, l996 was more successful. Chev. Chester Fairbanks Cotter, GCTJ, GMTJ, of New York and Beaufort, South Carolina stepped up to the plate and assumed the leadership as commander. The Grand Prior made an exception for Chev. Cotter to organize the Commandery of St. Vincent with only six officers. St. Vincent was the patron saint of wine makers and viticulturists. Chev. Cotter and his wife Dame Pat hosted the first officers meeting and convent in Beaufort on February 23, l996. St. Vincent became a priory at its Vernal Convent on April 19, 1997 at St. Helena’s Episcopal Church in Beaufort.
The Priory of St. Vincent grew slowly at first. However, the deep commitment to service of its members and its strong leaders made up for quantity. Chev. Chester Cotter served as Prior I until 2001. LTC Chev. C. Lockhart McLendon, GCTJ served as Prior II from 2001 to 2003, during which time he helped the priory increase its membership. Chev. M. George T. Sheftall, GOTJ served as Prior III from March 8, 2003 to May 7, 2005. Chev. George Louis Custodi, GOTJ, served as Prior IV from May 7, 2005 to November 10, 2007. He invigorated the priory, opened the officer meetings to all members, emphasized the spiritual side of being a knight or dame and refashioned the postulants vigil and surrounding activities to foster more spirituality.
Dr. Chev. Robert Earl Alexander, GOTJ served as Prior V from November 10, 2007 to October 3, 2009. He continued his predecessor’s work with diplomacy and grace. Chev. Joseph Albert Sadowski, Sr., GOTJ, served as Prior VI from October 3, 2009 to October 15, 2011. “My goals were to build on the foundations of the previous administrations,” Sadowski says. “I saw my role as a facilitator. I sought good people to serve on committees, which utilized their individual skills, and left them alone to complete their tasks. I tried to have every member involved, so that they would not lose interest!”
Chev. Duncan Cairnes Ely, GOTJ, became Prior VII in 2011. His first official act as prior was to request the Grand Priory to move its St. Vincent’s flag from Beaufort to Columbia. The former location was where the priory started and the latter is now its geographical center. “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 has recognized two preceptories within the past year.
The vision of a reconceived postulant 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 a creating the priory coat of arms came true.
Four priory members have had visions of making a difference on a national level. Chevaliers Robert Alexander (Acting Grand Aumonier), George Custodi (Assistant Deputy Grand Prior for Region III), Gene Fee (Grand Photographer) and Duncan Ely (Chaplain Domiciliary to the late Grand Chaplain) 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.” Members of the priory are exploring and dreaming and visioning and the next fifty years will bear witness to those new and exciting realities.
Current Prior: Prior X Chev. David A. Botsko, PhD., GOTJ (2016-present)
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)|