Who are the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre? What do they do? Can I become a member?
If you have ever come across a member of the Holy Sepulchre, especially when vested in black and whites capes at a Diocesan liturgy, these questions are often asked. Like anything that is unknown or new to a person, curiosity gets the best of us. In this case it is good!
Each time a member of the Holy Sepulchre is asked about the Order it provides a rich opportunity to describe the important work and invaluable service the Holy Sepulchre Order offers.
The quickest answer to the importance and function of the Order can be summed up in one statement: The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is the only lay institution of the Vatican State charged with the task of providing for the needs of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and for all the activities and initiatives which are necessary to support the Christian presence in the Holy Land.
Now what does that mean? What it really means is that the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre support the Christian presence in the Holy Land. This support comes both in prayers and generous financial support. There are many wonderful institutions and organizations that the Order supports. Some of those great institutions include the Patriarchate Seminary, Bethlehem University, Rehabilitation Hospitals, and orphanages.
The commitment of the nearly 30,000 members throughout the world truly keeps Christianity alive in the Holy Land. Each member is committed to offering concrete actions to share in this much needed work. Despite the generous support of the Order, the Christian presence continues to diminish. If not for the work of the Holy Sepulchre Order over the years, the very presence of Christianity would be far less than it currently stands.
The primary members of the Order are laity throughout the world. Members of the clergy also stand as members in the Order. Each year, lieutenancies or regions throughout the world welcome new members into the Order at the annual meeting. Members from the Diocese of San Bernardino form part of the Western USA Lieutenancy. The 2017 annual meeting was held in Santa Barbara the weekend of September 28 to October 2. It was during the weekend that new members were formally invested into the Order by a beautiful liturgy. Additionally, some of the active members are graced with the conferral of promotions of ranks. While entrance into the Order is by invitation only, the Order is always open and looking for new members who have a deep commitment and willing spirit to carry on the mission of the Order in service to the Holy Land.
Regardless if one is a member of the Order or not, each year on Good Friday all of the Church throughout the world is invited to assist the ministry of the Church in the Holy Land. It is with the funds from the Good Friday Collection that Holy Land Franciscans provide presence, care and service to the people who are living in the Holy Land. We all can help preserve important shrines critical in the history of the Christian Faith, support pastoral care to the Christian community and provide for the poor through housing development and scholarship opportunities by giving in the Good Friday collection.