photo: The Right Honourable Édouard Thibaudeau Rinfret, Chief Justice of Canada and the first President of the Canadian Association, kneeling in the presence of Cardinal Paul Émile Léger. In the background, Count Robert W. Keyserlingk and Mr. Quintin J. Gwyn. Standing next to Cardinal Léger, Canon Emmett G. Carter, Chaplain of Magistral Grace and future Cardinal Archbishop of Toronto.
The Canadian Association was incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation by federal charter on January 27, 1953. The first seven knights formed its first Board of Directors. Chief Justice Thibaudeau Rinfret was elected the first President while Mr. Quintin J. Gwyn was elected Chancellor. Mr. Gwyn would later become President before serving as the Order’s Grand Chancellor in Rome.
The idea of a Canadian Association of the Order of Malta was first raised in 1948, on the occasion of Quebec’s Eucharistic Congress when two Italian members of the Pontifical Household, both Knights of Malta, attended on Cardinal Rodrigue Villeneuve, Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada, who was the Papal Legate. They were Count Nicolà Nasalli Rocca and Avv. Dott. Alberto Garabelli (†1959). These two gentlemen belonged to the Grand Priory of Rome. Dr. Garabelli traveled from Quebec City to Montreal, duly mandated by the Grand Magistry “to institute inquiries about the possibility of forming a Canadian Association”. He met with several eminent Canadian Roman Catholic personalities, among them, Count Robert W. Keyserlingk and Mr. Quintin Jermy Gwyn.
Since a minimum number of seven knights was needed in order to create a national association, Doctor Garabelli returned to Canada in 1952 and admitted in gremio religionis the following seven Canadian personalities: the Right Honourable Édouard Thibaudeau Rinfret, Chief Justice of Canada (†1962), Colonel Thomas Guerin (†1963), Mr. Quintin J. Gwyn (†1994), Count Robert W. Keyserlingk (†1990), Lieutenant-Colonel J. Darley LeMoyne (†1976), Mr. Daniel de Yturralde y Orbegoso (†1980), and Mr. Desmond Clarke (†1976).
Appropriately enough, the new Association’s first public act was a mass said in the chapel of the Université de Montréal by Monsignor Olivier Maurault, p.s.s., PA, CMG, President of the University and Conventual Chaplain of the Order (†1968), whom Cardinal Carter described as “one of the outstanding founders of the Order in Canada.”
In his homily, the distinguished prelate and academic recalled the words of Pope Pius XII 10 with respect to the Order, namely that, long before nations had established international organizations, the Order had gathered men from eight different countries in order to consecrate them to the defense of spiritual values: peace, faith, justice and social justice.
Commenting on the foundation of the Canadian Association, a Montréal newspaper wrote: “The first activity undertaken by the Canadian Association was the creation of a corps of Auxiliaries, willing to dedicate themselves to help the many charitable institutions and organizations.” (Translation) The Auxiliaries Committee was headed by Mrs. William Van Horne, née Hannan (†1987), who had been admitted as a Dame of Magistral Grace in 1953.
In 1954, Paul-Émile Cardinal Léger (†1991), Archbishop of Montréal, was admitted, in Rome, as a Bailiff Grand-Cross of Honour and Devotion, the first of this rank in Canada. In the presence of Frà Antonio Hercolani Fava Simonetti, Lieutenant of the Grand Magistry ad interim, Cardinal Léger said: “
The dignity that the Order of Malta confers on me today is not an ordinary decoration. The star of the Knights of Malta shines with a particular brightness in the storied past, and if the modern world followed its light, it would again find a haven of peace...
The Canadian Association will be host a number of activities during this year to commemorate this significant milestone along with the 900th anniversary of Pope Pascal II’s bull Pie postulatio voluntatis, the most important document in the history of the Order of Malta. It recognized, and gave blessing and support to, our Order as a religious institute, and very importantly exempt the Order from any authority, civil or ecclesiastic, other than the Pontiff himself.