A History of Helping and Healing
St. John Ambulance is a world-wide charitable, public service organization, which began in England in the latter part of the nineteenth century with roots reaching back over nine hundred years. All of its members, except for a small administrative staff, are volunteers.
The governing organization responsible for St. John Ambulance is THE MOST VENERABLE ORDER OF THE HOSPITAL OF ST. JOHN OF JERUSALEM, more commonly known as the "Order of St. John". The sovereign head of the Order is Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, and the Grand Prior, His Royal Highness Richard, Duke of Gloucester.
The Order exists in Canada as "The Priory of Canada of the Order of St. John", with the Governor-General as the Prior, and in Ontario with the Lieutenant-Governor as the Vice-Prior. The Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario is also the Honourary Provincial Commissioner of the Patient Care.
The Order consists of two foundations:(1) The St. John Ophthalmic Hospital in Jerusalem, and (2) The St. John Ambulance Association and Patient Care, more often referred to as "St. John Ambulance".
Origins and Brief History Of The Order
The Order of St. John is the oldest Order of chivalry in the world.
It has beginnings almost a thousand years ago in the year 1023, when Benedictine monks in Jerusalem, devoting themselves to the care of the sick and injured, adopted the eight-pointed white cross emblem of the republic of Amalfi as their badge.
Following the first Crusade, the monks were organized as a distinct and separate order of Hospitalliers under the leadership of one, Brother Gerard.
After acquiring a property on which had stood the ancient Monastery of St. John the Baptist, the Order adopted St. John the Baptist as it's patron saint and so took on the name of St, John. The Order was recognized officially in 1113 and taken under the protection of the Pope.
A few years later, a body of military brethren (the Knights) was formed and the Order added the role of armed protection to its hospitallier duties.
In later years, the Order was organized according to national origin into groups known as "langues", of which there came to be eight, one for each of the points of the white cross (Provence, Auvergne, France, Italy, Aragon, Castile, England and Germany).
With its first headquarters and hospital in Jerusalem, the Order has had many homes over the centuries including Acre, Cyprus, Rhodes, Malta and finally Rome. The Order in England grew and prospered until 1540 when it was dissolved by King Henry VIII and its properties confiscated. Although reinstated by Queen Mary during the temporary return of the country to the Roman Catholic faith, the properties were once again confiscated by Queen Elizabeth I, and remained essentially dormant in England for 300 years.
The Order in England was revived in 1831 and, when negotiations with the Sovereign Order in Rome proved fruitless, was constituted as an independent Order under the British Crown. Queen Victoria granted the first Royal Charter in 1888.
The first ambulance services of the Order were organized in 1872 in the pottery and mining districts of England.
In 1877, the St. John Ambulance Association was founded to teach first aid, and in 1887, the St. John Ambulance Patient Care was formed.
St. John Ambulance in Canada
The Priory of Canada is one of a family of more than forty Priories and Commanderies world-wide. The Order of St. John in Canada is a registered charity whose mission is to enable Canadians to improve their health, safety and quality of life by providing training and community services.
The Governor General of Canada is the Prior and Chief Officer of the Order in Canada. In each province and territory there are St. John Councils which oversee the delivery of St. John Ambulance services.
The work of St. John Ambulance in Canada is carried out by two distinct yet mutually dependent groups:
Today, there are more than 11,000 uniformed volunteer Patient Care members who provide first aid coverage at public events and deliver community health care services. Patient Care members contribute more than 1.7 million volunteer hours to communities across Canada each year.
Is a network of medical professionals, program development specialists and instructors who provide first aid and health promotion courses to approximately 680,000 Canadians annually.
Canada saw the first teaching activities of the Association in 1883, with the first officially registered Patient Care Division being chartered in London, Ontario in 1909.
While Christian in origin and structure, the Order today in Canada embraces people from all faiths in the humanitarian work of its Association and Patient Care, and in support of the St. John Ophthalmic Hospital in Jerusalem.
The work of St. John is open to any individual interested in carrying on the ancient values of service idealized in the motto of the Order "Pro Utilitate Hominum" (In the Service of Mankind).
Reprinted without permission. © 1995 St. John Ambulance Ontario Council