For Gerard Randall, the dual calling of the Order of Malta goes hand in hand with the Catholic Faith.
That twofold calling — serving the sick and the poor and defending the faith — came into clear focus when he joined the Order in 2014. He served as the first Hospitaller of the Federal Association Milwaukee region when it received formal recognition six years ago.
One of the ministries of the Milwaukee region is delivering meals prepared by Miss Katie’s Diner to those living at the Cathedral Center.
Located at 845 N. Van Buren St., the Cathedral Center was founded to address the particular needs for shelter and support services for women and families. They achieve their mission to “provide a safe environment for women and families, while working to end homelessness one life at a time” by offering comprehensive, targeted programs that include emergency shelter, case management services and, most recently, workforce development.”
Serving nearly 1,000 women and families each year, the Cathedral Center is one of the few agencies in Milwaukee that serves individual women and single fathers with their children. The shelter model also enables them to keep families together, regardless of size. Located in the heart of downtown Milwaukee, the Center reaches individuals who don’t know where they will sleep next, who live with too many others, moving from house to house, or who have a pending eviction. Clients are served free of charge for up to 90 days.
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, known more commonly as the Order of Malta, is a lay religious order of the Roman Catholic Church. Founded in 1099 AD, it is the fourth oldest Order of the Catholic Church. The Order’s founder, Blessed Gerard, opened a hospital in Jerusalem to care for the pilgrims attacked while making a pilgrimage to the Holy City.
No longer sword-wielding knights, the motto of the Order of Malta continues as it began during the Crusades: “To defend the faith and serve the poor.”
The Order has the sponsorship of nearly 200 medical facilities throughout the world, including Holy Family Maternity Hospital in Bethlehem. The Order is also a sovereign entity that possesses no territory yet has formal diplomatic relations with more than 110 countries and a permanent observer, with ambassador status, at the United Nations.
According to Randall, there are more than 13,500 Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta worldwide, including a small percentage of members living a consecrated religious life.
“The United States is organized geographically into three regions: American, Federal and Western Associations, each having a principal chaplain. Milwaukee has members of both the Federal and American Associations,” he said. “The Federal Association Milwaukee region is led by Hospitaller Daniel McCarthy, KM. The American Association region is led by President Nick Voegeli, KM. Our local chaplains are Fr. John Baumgartner and Fr. Paul Hartmann. There are over 35 Knights and Dames of the Order locally.”
For the past 10 years, the members of the Federal Association Milwaukee have served meals to the Cathedral Center and, for the past eight, have collaborated with Miss Katie’s Diner, owned by the Picciurro family. The latter also owns Pitch’s restaurant at 1801 N. Humboldt Ave.
“Initiated by local members of the Order, this collaboration with volunteers at the shelter was an opportunity to engage in a formalized commitment of service to those in need,” said Randall. He coordinates meal service with the diner and serves meals to the residents. “The women’s shelter organizes various groups to offer meals daily to the residents. Lately, the Order serves the meals on the last Monday of each month at around 2 p.m.”
Since the government imposed COVID-19 restrictions, Randall said that Miss Katie’s Diner began preparing an average of 70 prepackaged hot meals each month. These consist of a large BBQ chicken leg and thigh, a starch, vegetable and bread, and have been prepackaged by Miss Katie’s Diner and delivered by volunteers of the Order to the shelter.
Most of the costs for the more than 800 meals each year plus packaging are paid for by the diner. Dues from local members of the Order of Malta also support the meal ministry.
“The guests certainly love the food,” said Randall. “Pitch’s does a great job, and for years, Peter Picciurro, Jr. has graciously, humbly and faithfully provided meals that were personally served to the residents buffet style by members of the Order.”
Randall is pleased to belong to the Order of Malta and was happy to be invited to become a member. Previously, he volunteered with the House of Peace and served with Catholic Charities and other organizations devoted to helping the poor.
“Years ago, I received chaplain’s training at Walter Reed Army Hospital and very much enjoyed that,” he said. “I am always looking for a way to combine my spiritual life with my desire to offer greater service to the poor and sick. For me, it is essential to tie faith into service.”