HISTORY OF THE KNIGHTS OF ST. JOHN INT. IN AFRICA

The Order of the Knights of St. John was introduced into Africa in then Gold Coast, now Ghana, in 1933 and this was by divine providence.

One Anthony Quansah of Saltpond, then a shipping clerk and a Catholic, was always observed to say the grace before and after meals whenever he and his co-workers had lunch in the ships that frequently docked at the Takoradi Port. An expatriate officer on board one of these ships was impressed when he observed that Anthony made the sign of the Cross whenever he prayed. He spoke to Anthony and as soon as he was convinced that the clerk was a Catholic and hailed from a Catholic family, he discussed several topics with him one of which was the Order of the Knights of St. John.

The officer, in fact, gave Anthony some papers about the Order and young Anthony lost no time in getting those documents to his father, the Late Bro. Emmanuel Raphael Quansah of Saltpond. The late Bro. Quansah got a few zealous aspirants together and applied to the supreme Commandery in the United States Of America for permission to form a Commandery in Saltpond in the Central Region of Ghana.

He also approached the then Archbishop of Cape Coast, The Late Archbishop Thomas William Porter in 1933 for permission to introduce the Order into the country. His Grace stipulated that they were to conduct meetings with prospective members for a period of five years while the application was being considered. At the end of the fifth year i.e. 1937, His Grace gave approval for the establishment of the Order in Saltpond. During exchanging correspondence with the Supreme Secretary, Bro. Quansah was informed of the presence of one Bro. Bonito, an initiated member of the Order who was at that time the Manager of a merchant firm Messrs. G. B. Ollivant Ltd. in Cape Coast.

Consequently, the Supreme Board took advantage of this propitious opportunity to invest in Bro. Bonito with the executive authority to arrange the initiation of the aspirants and the eventual inauguration of the first Commandery of the Order at Saltpond. By providential coincidence, the parish at Saltpond was dedicated to St. John the Baptist and it was, therefore, most appropriate that the first Commandery in West Africa should be chartered as St. John the Baptist Commandery No. 346. The Commandery was duly inaugurated in 1937 with Bro. Quansah as its first President.

From there the order in Saltpond continued to grow in membership with Bro. Anthony Quansah playing very active and significant roles. Accra, the capital of the British colony of the Gold Coast, was the next to be attracted by the Order. With the growing Catholicism in Accra, and the positivity of attitude in catholic gentlemen in the then Gold Coast, the news of the order soon caught up with Catholics in Accra, leading the establishment of the second commandery Sacred Heart Commandery No. 351, Derby Avenue, Accra in 1944.

The inauguration ceremonies of Sacred Heart Commandery No. 351, Accra was ably performed by The late Worthy President, E. R. Quansah of Commandery No. 346 on Pentecost Sunday, May 27, 1944 with the approval of Msgr. Adolph Alexander Noser, S.V.D., later Bishop of Accra. This commandery, which was also founded in the first every Catholic Church Accra, became the mother of all commanderies in Accra, as it grew and initiated members who eventually spread out to form different commanderies in different parts of Accra and beyond.

The growth of the Order in Ghana continued steadily and fast as it moved rapidly across to other regions and territories, and even across borders to neighboring countries including Liberia in 1952, and Nigeria in 1976, then later to Togo and Sierra Leone The expansion and growth of the Knights of St. John in these four other West African countries was not without its snow-ball effect. Due to the rapid growth of the order now within the West African Sub Region, the number of commanderies then formed had met the requirement for establishing a Grand Commandery, hence the West Africa Grand commandery was formed and headquartered in Ghana.

The Charter granted to the West African Grand Commandery on August 15, 1949 enabled the new Grand Commandery to have complete and final authority in all matters, questions and legislation governing the West African Grand Commandery of the Knights of St. John. As the Order grew in West Africa, many catholic women were also attracted to its ideals and gathered together to support the knights. In December 1954, the first auxiliary was established in Africa and named the St. Philomena Ladies Auxiliary #306 in Liberia. Subsequently, The Ladies Auxiliaries started spreading fast, mostly in places that had existing commanderies. Ghana had the first Ladies Auxiliary in Takoradi also christened St. Philomena Auxiliary # 315 on 11th April 1959.

By the Early to Mid-Eighties, it was evident that the West Africa Grand Commandery and Ladies Auxiliary had over grown its self with establishment of many more commanderies in the different countries that constituted the Grand Commandery. It therefore became necessary that the West African Grand Commandery be split along national territorial lines to enable the efficient management of the local commanderies and auxiliaries within the country territories. On December 15th, 1986, the Supreme Commandery in accordance with the constitution created and inaugurated the Ghana Grand Commandery, along with other grand commanderies including Togo, Liberia & Nigeria.

Ghana Grand Commandery continued to grow in numbers until 1995, when the Ghana Grand Commandery was broken into 3 Grand Commanderies, i.e. Accra Grand Commandery, Cape Coast Grand Commandery, and the Tamale Grand Commandery. Ghana Grand had then been dissolved and a Supreme Subordinate Commandery Ghana created, to oversee the management and administration of the KSJI in Ghana through the new Grand Commanderies created.

The new grand commanderies were formed according to the ecclesiastical provinces of the Catholic Church in Ghana. Accra Grand Commandery had responsibility over commanderies within the Accra ecclesiastical province which included Accra Archdiocese, Ho Diocese, Keta-Akatsi Diocese, Jasikan Diocese, Koforidua Diocese and the Donkokrom Vicariate. Cape Coast Grand Commandery had responsibility over commanderies within the then Cape Coast ecclesiastical Cape Coast Archdiocese, Kumasi Diocese, Sekondi-Takoradi Diocese, Obuasi Diocese, Konongo-Mampong Diocese, Sunyani Diocese, Techiman Diocese and Goaso Diocese, and The Wiawso Diocese.

Tamale Grand Commandery had responsibility over commanderies within the Tamale ecclesiastical province which included Tamale Archdiocese, Yendi Diocese, Wa Diocese, Damango Diocese, and Navrongo-Bolgatanga Diocese. 1n 1999, the Ghana Grand Ladies Auxiliary had grown to become the Supreme Subordinate Auxiliary Ghana, with its first President, Noble Sis. Dame Josephine A. Sey. The Order in Ghana kept growing along with the growth of the Catholic Church in Ghana as visibly enough KSJI had practically become a military escort detachment to the Bishops and or turned out in performance at other important and significant religious celebrations and events.

Owing to the continuous growth of the Catholic Church in Ghana, which then saw more dioceses being created, as well as the growth of the order along similar lines, there was an obvious need to relook the structure of the Order in Ghana again for effective and proper management. In 2012, the Supreme Commandery during its 78th Biennial convention in the United States Of America, approved the restructuring of the Grand Commanderies in Ghana, splitting all three existing Grand Commanderies to form new Grand commanderies. Thus the Grands are now as follows: Accra West Grand, Accra East Grand, Cape Coast Grand, Koforidua-Ho Grand, Kumasi Grand, Tamale Grand, Wa South Grand, Wa North Grand, Sunyani Grand, and Navorongo-Bolgatanga Grand.

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