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Taking a glimpse into the rich history of the Priory in the USA - We introduce 4 founding Members


1. Fanny Hanna Moore

One of the Ten Founders of the American Society of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem

Fanny Weber Hanna, (1886-1980) daughter of Leonard C. Hanna and niece to Mark Hanna, married Paul Moore, Sr. on October 30, 1909, in Cleveland, Ohio. Mrs. Moore was a member of the Citizens Committee for Planned Parenthood of the American Birth Control League. She was also the first female director of the Episcopal Church Foundation. During her long, productive life, she and her husband gave generously to a variety of health and medical causes as well as to the Order of St. John.  She was also known for her passion for horse breeding. The Moore estate at Hollow Hill Farm, in rural New Jersey, was the center of her equestrian interests. In 1956, Fanny, who had been invested as an Associate Commander of the Order in July 1954, became aware of the growing interest to create an American association with the Most Venerable Order and was persuaded to join the movement to found the American Society. On December 26,1957, she, along with nine prominent men added her name to the document of incorporation creating the American Society. On 13 November, 1963, she was invested as a Dame of Grace of the Order, two years before the American Society was founded. At that time Americans being invested as Associate Members of the Order were required to travel to London. It would be 1960 before the first Investiture was held in New York. Fanny was a very active member of the American Society and gave generous support to the work of the Order until her death.

2. Douglas Elton Fairbanks Jr., KBE, DSC, KStJ

A Founder of the American Society of the Most Venerable Order

Douglas Elton Fairbanks Jr.,KBE, DSC, KStJ (1909-2000), one of the original founders of the American Society of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, was born in New York City, the only child of actor Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and his first wife, Anna Beth Sully. After a rather diverse education in New York City and Los Angeles, California, he began his motion picture career in 1923.

Although celebrated as an actor, Fairbanks was commissioned as a reserve officer in the United States Navy at the onset of World War II and assigned to Lord Louis Mountbatten's Commando staff in the United Kingdom. During his years in the US Navy, he excelled in operations against Axis forces in the European Theater; for this he was highly decorated by several Allied nations. Released from the active Navy with the grade of Commander in 1946, Fairbanks stayed in the Naval Reserve and retired in 1954 with the rank of Captain. In recognition of his work on behalf of Anglo-American amity, particularly as chairman in the United States of the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe, he was made in 1949 an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE). On May 25, 1950 he was invested as an Associate Knight of Justice of the Order of St John.

In 1956 a group of prominent Americans with strong British connections began discussions with the Order’s London headquarters about the possibility of creating a formal presence for the Order of St John in the United States. At the time since the United States was not part of the British Commonwealth, the idea of creation of a Priory was out of the question. It was Fairbanks who suggested the idea of creating an entity to be known as the American Society of the Order of St John. On December 26, 1957, the American Society of the Order became a reality when Fairbanks and eight other men and one woman signed the Certificate of Incorporation in New York. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. would remain an active participant in the life and work of the American Society and the Priory in the USA until his death in May 7, 2000.

3. The Reverend Canon Edward Nason West, OBE, STD, DD

A Renaissance Man

Edward Nason West (1909-1990), was born in Boston and graduated from Boston University in 1931. He was ordained a deacon in 1934 following his graduation from the General Theological Seminary and was ordained a priest in 1935. He served as curate and later as rector of Trinity Church in Ossining, N.Y., from 1934 to 1941 and was then named the Sacrist at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. He was named Canon Sacrist in 1943 and Sub Dean of the cathedral in 1966. As Sub Dean, he was responsible for cathedral life when the Dean was absent or, as was often the case, when the position was unfilled. He retired in 1981 as Canon Sacrist and Sub Dean but continued as Master of Ceremonies. He served with many religious organizations and was a trustee of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, the Tolstoy Foundation and St. Peter's School. He had been named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire; an Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau by the Netherlands; a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by France, and a Knight Commander of the Royal Order of St. Sava, Yugoslavia.

Canon West was invested as a Sub-Chaplain and Officer Brother of the American Society of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem on 6 January, 1960 and served as Assistant Secretary of the American Society from 1965 until 1969 when he was appointed Secretary of the Society. He would hold that position until his death in January 1990. A man of many talents, he was responsible for organization and conduct of Investiture services for the American Society.

Not only was he a theologian, he was also an author, an internationally known iconographer and an expert in the design of church furnishings. It is to his credit that high altars were moved away from the liturgical east walls in church sanctuaries, so the Celebrant could face the people during the Mass. He was the author of several books, including ''The History of the Cross,'' ''Meditations on the Gospel of St. John,'' ''Things I Always Thought I Knew,'' and “Outward Signs, the Language of Christian Symbolism.”

A leading authority on liturgical celebrations, as Canon Sacrist he was in charge of preparations for all services at St. John the Divine. Dressed in a black cassock, black cape and black skullcap, he often officiated at service and ceremonies in the cathedral, using his silver-tipped oak staff to orchestrate events. Among the notable events he organized were the funerals of Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia, Duke Ellington, Dag Hammarskjold and George Balanchine, as well as visits by the Queen Mother of Britain, the Dalai Lama, and Vasken I, Catholicos of All Armenians.

The Compassrose of the Anglican Communion was designed by Canon Edward West. It is a stylized compass in which the center holds the Cross of St. George, surrounded by the Greek inscription "The truth shall make you free." It symbolizes the spread of the Anglican Communion around the world. A bishop's mitre atop the northern arrow of the compass emphasizes the centrality of the episcopate and apostolic order in the Anglican Communion. The first placement of the Compassrose was in St. Mark’s Cathedral Minneapolis, following the 2nd Convention of the Anglican Congress held there in 1954. Later it was set in the nave of Canterbury Cathedral and dedicated at the final Eucharist of the 1988 Lambeth Conference. Additional Compassroses were placed and dedicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, Washington, in 1990, and the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, New York City. In 1992, Canon West’s ashes were placed there to rest.

He was also an authority on liturgical art and designed and painted the iconostasis, or altar screens, of the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava in Manhattan. He also designed the Coat of Arms for the Diocese of Albany, as well as Episcopal rings, pectoral crosses, stained glass windows, altar frontals, processional crosses and religious vestments.

And finally, Canon West was the inspiration and model for Canon John Tallis, a major character in the young adult novels of Madeleine L'Engle, appearing in four books. Canon West was L'Engle's real-life spiritual advisor. An Episcopal Canon, Tallis defies conventional expectations about how priests behave. Somewhat brusque in manner, he is tough-minded and not at all pious - that is, he does not make a show of his faith, but instead takes action in service of what he believes to be right. In his first three appearances in L’Engle’s novels, Tallis provides both spiritual leadership and insight into the realms of crime and international intrigue.

He was truly a Renaissance man, a man of many talents who served the Church and Society with great ability.

4. Dr. Grayson Louis Kirk, KBE 

Chancellor of the American Society

Grayson Louis Kirk (1903-1997) was born in Ohio to a farm family. He graduated from Miami University in 1924, earned a master's degree from Clark University, and studied at the École Libre des Sciences Politiques before completing a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1930. Kirk taught government and political science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison before accepting a position as Associate Professor of Government at Columbia in 1940. During World War II, he began a long association with the U.S. Government when he served in the Security Section of the State Department’s Political Studies Division. Kirk became involved in the formation of the United Nations Security Council, attending the Dumbarton Oaks Conference and the United Nations Conference on International Organization where the United Nations Charter was signed.

While not one of the 10 founding members of the American Society of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, Priory history records show that Kirk was accepted into the American Society in 1958 and was elected Vice Chancellor in 1959. He served as Vice Chancellor until 1966 when he assumed the post of Chancellor and held that position for the next 21 years. To date no one has surpassed this record. During his time as Chancellor the American Society experience significant growth in membership and charitable giving, especially to the St John Eye Hospital. It is to his credit that he was able to carry out the duties of Chancellor of the American Society while holding the office of President of Columbia University at a time when student demonstrations and protests tested his leadership. After his retirement as President of Columbia in 1969, he served on the Council on Foreign Relations, and was president until 1971, and on the board of the Association of American Universities.

The 1989 Roll of the Order reveals that Kirk was invested as a Knight of Grace in February 1959. While not a founding member, he is remembered as one of the early pioneers whose work contributed to the growth and success of the American Society and the Priory in the USA.

Contact the Priory in the USA

Priory in the USA of the Order of St John
1850 M Street NW, Suite 1070
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 510-9691
EIN: 13-6161455
prioryusa@saintjohn.org