The Commandery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux of New Orleans was organized in April 1996, under the mentorship of the Priory of St. Andrew in Nashville. The prime mover and first Commander was Chev. Hugh J. F. Robertson, M.D., GCTJ, CMTJ, who recruited postulants from the medical community and prominent members of New Orleans society. Thus, our charitable outreach has a significant medical character. The Commandery was elevated to a Priory on April 5, 1997.
The Priory petitioned GPUSA successfully to change its name to the Priory of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, as no other jurisdiction then bore the name requiring a location distinction. The coat of arms of the Priory was originally, in simple terms, a vertically divided shield of white on the left and black on the right with the GPUSA modified patriarchal cross on the white portion and a gold fleur de lys on the black portion. It was later decided by the Grand Herald GPUSA that a more uniquely identifying design should be created. Newer and more appropriate arms were designed and adopted in 2009.
The new arms are based on the arms of the French Abbey of Clairvaux (black with a diagonal of red and white checks.) The charges of a field of gold fleur de lys were added in the upper right and a gold crescent reversed in the lower left which are both important symbols associated with the City of New Orleans. The formal heraldic blazon of arms is:
ARMS : Sable a Bend counter compony Argent and Gules in Sinister semy of Fleur de Lys and in Dexter a Crescent reversed Or.
CREST : Issuant from a wreath Argent and Gules a Vol enfiled by a Crozier proper mantled Gules doubled Argent.
The Priory adopted a badge consisting of eight gold fleur de lys surrounding a red cross paty (pattee in French) which we place on our Priory shirts and other apparel.
An OSMTH Magisterial Council and GPUSA Grand C&I were held in New Orleans at the historic St. Louis Cathedral in October, 1999. The Silent Knight program was first discussed at this event, which was conceived by COL Chev. Craig Carlson, GCTJ. Two other GPUSA Grand C&I’s were held in New Orleans in October, 2002 and again in May, 2005, just before Hurricane Katrina.
Priory Convent & Investitures were held in several churches and denominations over the years, including the historic and magnificent Our Lady of Prompt Succor National Shrine in New Orleans. Our ceremonies are now conducted in the Christ Anglican Catholic Church in Metairie, Louisiana.
The Grand Priory of France made a request in 2000 through OSMTH and GPUSA on what charitable outreach might be provided to Haiti. The Priory of St. Bernard de Clairvaux has long had historical and cultural ties with Haiti (Saint Domingue). The Grand Council honored this request at its meetings in New Orleans. The Grand Priory of France and the Priory of St. Bernard de Clairvaux established a fraternal relationship, which was formalized with the exchange of flags and documents. Grand Prior of France, now the Grand Commander V, OSMTH, Maj Chev. Marcel dePicciotto, MD, regularly attends our Priory C&I’s and remains a very special and much beloved friend.
Our charitable outreach efforts and partners have included a number of local and cross-cultural groups, including St. Louis Cathedral, American Red Cross (Turkish earthquake relief), Trinity Christian Community and Good Samaritan Services of the Anglican Catholic Church, among other charities. In kind and cash donations were made to the Haitian Earthquake Relief ($400,000+), Hurricane Katrina Relief ($10,000 GPUSA donation) and aid to needy Priory members ($22,000+).
The Priory’s current charitable partners are the Haitian Association for Human Development (AHDH) and Fairhaven Ministries. They network, collect and ship container loads of medical supplies, medicine, other necessary items and equipment throughout the world. The AHDH under the leadership of its founder and priory member, Chev. Charles Rene, MD, KCTJ, has an established clinic in La Valee Jacmel. The Ronald McDonald House serves families with children who are undergoing treatment at local medical facilities.
Although the Priory of St. Bernard de Clairvaux is small, a number of members have held or still hold high office in GPUSA and OSMTH. These position include the offices of Grand Prior GPUSA, Grand Commander OSMTH, Legate General for Asia and Africa OSMTH, Grand Herald GPUSA, Deputy Grand Prior Region V GPUSA, Grand Chirurgeon GPUSA, Grand Armorer GPUSA, Deputy Grand Aumonier, OSMTH Principal Herald of Arms, Grand Aumonier.
The Priory is proud to have created a Templar Farewell Salute funeral ceremony which may be performed during the memorial service, if it is requested by the deceased before death or by request of the deceased’s family. Briefly, the Farewell Salute party consists of three sword bearers who process to the front of the church and offer a sword salute to the casket, using the Latin words Vale, equite, frater, amicus... Te salutante! This translates as, “Farewell, Knight (or Dame), brother, friend... We salute you!” The party then recesses back to the rear of the church. Further refinements to this ceremony are planned.
The Priory of St. Bernard de Clairvaux remains in number between 50 and 75 active members. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina very nearly signaled the demise of the Priory, but it has managed to survive in our very damaged and more compact little city. Priors of the Priory of St. Bernard de Clairvaux are:
Prior I Chev. Hugh J.F. Robertson, MD, GCTJ, CMTJ (1997-2001)*
Prior II BG Chev. Robert C.G. Disney, GCTJ, GMTJ (2001-2003)
Prior III Chev. Russ W. Copping, GCTJ (2003-2010)
Prior IV Chev. Raymond R. Egan, Jr., GOTJ (2010-2011)
Prior V MAJ Chev. W. Kenneth Mann, DDS, GOTJ (2011-2013)
Prior VI H.E. Bernard L. Baisier, GOTJ (2012- 2016)
Prior VII Edward A. Runci, GOTJ (2016-Present)
Chevalier Philip John Arbo, GOTJ
Captain Chevalier Nathaniel Charles Angell, GOTJ
Chevalier Battle Bell III, GOTJ
John Sheldon Berault, GOTJ
LTC Chevalier Chester Henry Bigger, KTJ
Chevalier Henry Grady Collier, GOTJ
Chevaleresse Joan Westmoreland Collier, DGOTJ
H. E. MG Robert C. G. Disney, GCTJ, GMTJ
Chevalier Richard Eugene Garey, PhD, GOTJ
Carole Church Grout, DTJ
Comte Chevalier Laurent Longer de la Gueronniere, KCTJ
Chevalier Peter Edward Hagan, KCTJ
Chevalerese Edith May Bartholomew Maxwell, DCTJ
Chevalier Murvan Morris "Scotty" Maxwell, GCTJ
Rt. Rev. Hebert John May, CTJ
Chevalier Lee Davidson McLean, MD, KCTJ
Chevaleresse Virginia Culbreth McLean, DCTJ
Chevalier John Moore, KTJ
Chevaleresse Martha Caffery Gillis Restarick, DTJ
Chevalier Henry L. Restarick, Sr., KCTJ
RADM (Ret) Chevalier Winston Holbrook Weese, MD, GOTJ, MC, USNR