A Sarnia woman has been elected to head the Canadian division of an order so ancient it dates to the time of the Crusades.
Jane Anema is Canada’s new Grand Prior of the Military and Hospital Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem, a worldwide charity that fights leprosy, supports religious colleges, and advocates for hospice palliative care.
Anema, executive director of Sarnia Community Foundation, replaces the former Speaker of the House Peter Milliken. His are big shoes to fill, she acknowledged with a laugh, noting Milliken wears a size 11.
Founded in 1099 after the first Crusade, the Order was created to care for lepers in Jerusalem. It’s established today in 44 countries and still active in the fight against the disease, which primarily impacts the developing world.
“Essentially, I’m the board chair,” said Anema, who joined the Order in 1997.
The only other woman to hold the post was, coincidentally, another Sarnian — former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Pauline McGibbon.
The Order’s Canadian roots are traced to the early 1600s. The Grand Priory of Canada, which is divided into 13 jurisdictions, is today more focused on palliative care, Anema explained.
It has donated more than $2 million to hospice facilities across the country and published a free handbook on end-of-life care that’s used in Canada, France, Australia, China, Japan and Russia, she said.
It also supports Christian post-secondary institutions.
Given this country’s cultural and religious diversity, Anema said she would welcome members of any faith who want to join, noting the group’s core values are universal.
“This is really learning to love your neighbour as yourself; treating other people as you would want to be treated. That’s just good living, regardless of any religious affiliation,” she said.