SALT LAKE CITY — Hundreds of members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem gathered in the Diocese of Salt Lake City the weekend of Oct. 4, celebrating 40 years of the founding of the Western Lieutenancy, which encompasses nine dioceses in Utah, Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada.
The Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre are members of a papal order whose roots go back more than 900 years, to the First Crusade. The order, which has 20,000 members worldwide, is committed to the spiritual betterment of its members and the active support of Catholics and the propagation of the faith in the Holy Land. Contributions from members of the order provide 79 percent of the operating funds for Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, who is the Bishop of the Holy Land.
The Latin Patriarch operates parishes throughout the Holy Land, the seminary at Beit Jala, 43 parish schools with more than 19,000 students, and Bethlehem University, as well as health care and social services for children, the aged, the displaced and the dispossessed.
The 70 or so Knights and Ladies in Utah not only support the order’s worldwide efforts but are active locally. They have First Monday rosaries in Ogden, Salt Lake City and Park City; support English language book drives to help parochial school students; and sell the handmade olive wood rosaries from Bethlehem that provide funds to the Christians there. They also individually contribute to scholarship programs for seminarians in the Holy Land and Bethlehem University students.
The Oct. 5 Votive Mass honoring Our Lady Queen of Palestine was the occasion for the conferral of promotions as well as a time to recall members who had passed during the year; as each name was read, a bell tolled. Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, the order’s Grand Prior, was in attendance at the Mass; the principal celebrant was the Most Rev. John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City.
Concelebrating the Mass were Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Bishop Thomas E. Olmsted of Phoenix, Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu, Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Orange and the Right Rev. Eugene J. Hayes, Abbott of the Canons Regular of the Order of Premontre at St. Michael’s Abbey.
During his homily, Bishop Wester referred to Pope Francis’ words during his Oct. 4 visit to Assisi: "The Christian knows where Christ’s wounds are."
"My dear brothers and sisters of the Equestrian Order, you and I are called to find Christ’s wounds, particularly in the Holy Land, and to heal them," Bishop Wester said. "We are called to be missionaries of the Good News. … The best way to do that is to begin right here. As an order, we must heal each others’ wounds, care for one another and be willing to forgive as we have been forgiven if we hope to bring this new life to others."
After the Mass, Thomas E. McKiernan, a member of the Grand Magisterium, gave a report on the order’s operations and finances.
Emphasizing the value of the schools that the order supports, McKiernan said that when peace comes to the Holy Land, Christians will need to be educated if they expect to be part of the leadership. "Education is the only ladder I know of out of poverty," he added.
Patrick D. Powers, the order’s Vice Governor General, also spoke at the meeting. His address focused primarily on the pilgrimage to Rome attended by 3,400 members of the order in September. Powers said the pope’s message to the Knights and Ladies was for them to live their lives with purpose, build with love the community of the faithful, and profess the faith ever more profoundly.
At the Oct. 6 Mass of Investiture, Cardinal Mahony took his homily not only from the readings but also from Pope Francis’ message during his Oct. 4 visit to Assisi, which focused on three points: that Catholics must listen, walk and go forth.
Listening to Jesus’ words increases the faith, Cardinal Mahony said.
As for walking, the Holy Father has strongly emphasized the idea that all Christians are on a pilgrimage, Cardinal Mahony said. "Especially us Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre, we are a very unique and blessed, blessed community of believers because not only are we co-disciples of Jesus Christ, we share a common mission, which is the Holy Land and the Christian people of those lands."
The third part, going forth, includes sharing the presence of the Lord Jesus with others, the cardinal said, adding that Christians must be patient while waiting for their reward, "Being faithful to Jesus’ words and teachings, the teachings of the Church, [the] constitution of the Order, being faithful in all of those ways is what brings us to the fullness of God’s life and love," he said.