It sounds like some sort of fraternal organization, which, in fact, it is, but one that exists primarily to provide burial benefits and insurance to its members.
A Boston doctor, Darius Wilson, founded the order in 1877. Today, it's headed by Supreme Regent Peter D. Ferrara (assisted by Supreme Orator Errica Conforto).
In addition to insurance it offers "opportunities for local participation and community volunteerism" and scholarships to pre-18 members, all based on principles that include:
- Uniting fraternally all eligible male and female persons of sound bodily health and good moral standing, who are socially acceptable.
- Giving moral and material aid in its power to its members and those dependent on them.
- Teaching morality without religious distinction, patriotism without partisanship, and brotherhood without creed or class.
- Educating the members socially, morally and intellectually.
You can read up on the supreme council's old initiation rites, which included an introduction to the Mysteries of the order (which, for some, um, arcane reason, included the number 1105) and these final directions to newly annointed members:
In order to enter a Council while it is occupied with its duties, you will give three raps on the outer door. The Sentry will open the wicket. You will then give him the Semi-Annual Password which is changed on the first meeting in January and July of each year, and must be procured by you only of the Regent, no other persons can give it to you, and he only while you are in good standing in the Order. For the present term this password is ... You will then be admitted to the ante-room, where you will cloth yourself with the proper regalia, advance to the inner, or Council-room door, and give one distinct rap. The wicket will then be opened by the Warden, to whom you will give your name, rank in the Order, and the name and number of the Council to which you belong. This information will be conveyed to the Vice Regent, who will instruct the Warden to admit you, if correct. You will then give him the Permanent Password of the Order, which is ... This will admit you to the Council-room. You will advance to the altar, face the Regent and give the sign of Duty. After he responds you will be at liberty to be seated.
Should you wish to retire during a session of the Council, you will advance to the altar, give the same sign, and having been recognized, you will be at liberty to retire.
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