PROVIDENCE — On Wednesday, October 16, local members of the Knights of Malta met at Providence College to organize the Malta Walk, a charitable event to help the poor of the city of Providence.
Members of the Rhode Island chapter of the Knights of Malta, as well as interested students from the Providence College community, met at the campus ministry center in the basement of St. Dominic’s Chapel for 4:30 p.m. Mass, before putting together care packages made up of sandwiches, snacks and other care products. After the care packages were assembled, those involved went to the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, where they walked to the surrounding neighborhoods giving out food to the poor and needy.
At the end of Mass, Brendan Kleinle, a student at Providence College and member of the Knights of Malta, invited those present to join them in the night’s events.
Kleinle, a native of New Jersey and currently a sophomore at PC majoring in accounting and minoring in finance, was inspired to join the Knights of Malta shortly after graduating high school because of the influence of his local parish priest, who was also a member of the Knights of Malta.
“Going out there and helping people is something that I really like to do,” Kleinle said, noting that one of the primary things that attracted him to the Knights of Malta was their values rooted in “dedication and service.”
Kleinle went on to note that another significant element of the Knights of Malta is their sense of community among their members, which in turn leads to a sense of accountability in staying true to the Order’s mission of helping those in need. “Sometimes I don’t always have the motivation,” Kleinle said. “To be a part of an organization that’s really centered around that, that helps to motivate me and push me to make an impact on the world.”
The Knights of Malta, formally known as the Sovereign Military Hospitaler Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, were founded in 1099, and were officially recognized by Pope Paschal II in 1113. The organization was formed by a group of Italian merchants who founded a hospital in Jerusalem to care for the sick of that region. The hospital served the needs of all the locals, regardless of religion, national origin or ethnicity.
Eventually, an order of knights formed in affiliation with the hospital. Dedicated to St. John the Baptist and known officially as the Knights of St. John, their mission was to protect the poor and sick during the military turbulence that surrounded the Crusades. When the last Christian stronghold in the Holy Land was destroyed in the late 13th century, the Order changed its base of operations to Cyprus, a small island nation off the coast of Turkey, and later the island of Rhodes off the coast of Greece. During this time, their emphasis shifted to defending persecuted Christians throughout the Middle East. After being defeated in a battle against the Ottomans in the early 16th century, the order was expelled from Rhodes, but was eventually granted a safe haven in Malta by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V with the approval of Pope Clement VII.
The order dedicates most of its resources to helping the poor, protecting pilgrims, and sponsoring various medical missions. The Knights of Malta eventually spread internationally, and have chapters throughout the world, including in various American dioceses.
Several veteran members of the Knights of Malta were also present. Among them was Jack Flynn, a local Rhode Islander who has been a member of the Knights of Malta for 25 years. Flynn, a former member of the Diocesan Finance Committee during the episcopacy of Bishop Louis Gelineau, was introduced to the Order through the bishop’s promotion of the Order in the diocese.
“Our job is to help the sick and the poor. And that’s hopefully what we will do tonight,” Flynn said.
Also in attendance was Timothy Maynard, a member of the Knights of Malta for the past seven years, and the Hospitaler of Rhode Island, one of the chief officials of the Knights of Malta in the diocese. Maynard noted that like Flynn he was attracted to the Knights of Malta because of his desire to help the poor and defend the faith.
This is a mission that most members of the Knights of Malta take seriously, something reflected in the general attitude of most of its members.
“The people of the Order are just high-quality people. They really are. They’re the best Catholics that I know. It’s great to be a part of it,” Maynard said.
In attendance were several Providence College students not officially affiliated with the Knights of Malta. Carly Maderios, a junior majoring in history and classics, noted how her interest in attending the night’s events was born out of her desire to do more to get involved in service events on campus.
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