Known for charity, local Order of Malta helping Bethlehem hospital

| December 1, 2015 | 0 Comments
From left, Order of Malta members John Dick of All Saints in Minneapolis, Matt Heffron of St. Columba in St. Paul and Ivan Postumous of the Cathedral of St. Paul take part in the processional during the priest ordination Mass May 30 at the Cathedral. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

From left, Order of Malta members John Dick of All Saints in Minneapolis, Matt Heffron of St. Columba in St. Paul and Ivan Postumous of the Cathedral of St. Paul take part in the processional during the priest ordination Mass May 30 at the Cathedral. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Anne Marie Hansen, a parishioner of the Cathedral of St. Paul, says that an earthquake in Haiti in 2010 led her to join a group commonly known as the Order of Malta, a worldwide Catholic order with about 10,000 members, 1,800 of whom reside in the U.S.

The order has a hospital in Haiti, and Hansen decided to serve there for two weeks in April 2010.

“I was assigned to be in charge of a tent of 48 women who had all different kinds of injuries,” she said. “We worked 16, 17-hour days treating wounds.

“I got to work with so many knights and dames [of the order] from around the world. And, I just felt, ‘What an amazing organization — 900-plus years that they have served the poor and the sick in our world.’ I just fell in love with the order and the mission. That’s when I started my discernment.

Anne Marie Hansen

Anne Marie Hansen

After a year of mandatory formation, she was invested in November 2011 and now serves as state chair. She noted that six new members from Minnesota were invested Nov. 13 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chaplain of the order’s American Association. That pushes the total of knights and dames in Minnesota to 33. Eight more are in discernment and on track for investiture in November 2016.

Although there are a small number of men and women religious in the order, its members are primarily lay people, said Father Joseph Johnson, pastor of Holy Family in St. Louis Park and chaplain for Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and the Dakotas.

“Most people have no clue that the Order of Malta is one of the five oldest religious orders in the Church; it precedes Francis and Dominic by over a century,” Father Johnson said. “The charism of the Order of Malta was given to the founder, Blessed Gerard. . . . It’s the defense of the faith and the service of the sick and the poor.”

For Hansen, that charism was her reason for joining, as it relates to her work as founder and president of Gianna Homes in Plymouth and Minnetonka. The two homes have 16 residents who live with some type of memory loss, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. Some residents have other types of related conditions and illnesses.

“It perfectly lined up with what the Lord already had put in my life to do,” Hansen said. “It has helped me grow deeper in my awareness of treating those who are less fortunate — whether that be with some type of illness or that they’re poor — with more dignity and respect. The Order of Malta calls us to treat them as our Lord. . . . to see the face of Christ in them. It has been beautiful to do that in the culture we live in, where our faith is so attacked.”

The full name of the order is Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, and was started more than 900 years ago around the year 1048 by Blessed Gerard. He started a hospital in Jerusalem, and the order continues to run hospitals today.

Among them is Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem, the beneficiary of a fundraiser scheduled for noon Dec. 12 at the University Club in St. Paul. Hansen serves as co-chair of the event.

To make a reservation or for more information about the fundraiser, contact Hansen at 952-210-8836 or anne@giannahomes.org.

Learn more about Holy Family Hospital

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