Cardinal O’Brien visits Arlington to invest new Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre

By Jerry Circelli

Correspondent

Photos by Donna Ryckaert

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Ladies (left) and Knights (right) of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem fill Vietnamese Martyrs Parish in Arlington for the investiture of new members within the order’s Southwestern Lieutenancy. Celebrating the Mass are Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, the order’s Grand Master, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the lieutenancy’s grand prior, and other priest and bishop members of the order from around the lieutenancy.

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ARLINGTON — In the Holy Land, a region made sacred by Jesus Christ during his life on earth, the Christian population has declined from 30 percent 60 years ago to only two percent today, according to a Church report. The area, now comprising modern-day Israel and Palestine, is best described by Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, as the “singular, unique part of the world where Christ walked, taught, performed miracles, and rose from the dead.”

To preserve and promote Christianity in the Holy Land and to sustain the Catholic Church’s charitable work there, the cardinal traveled recently from Rome to the Diocese of Fort Worth. Here, from Oct. 25-28, he led the annual meeting of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (EOHSJ), Southwestern Lieutenancy of the United States. The gathering drew in nearly 1,000 knights, ladies, and clergy of the lieutenancy, which includes Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and New Mexico. This regional unit is one of 61 lieutenancies around the world that are part of the 23,000-member EOHSJ.

As Grand Master of the EOHSJ (a Vatican office), Cardinal O’Brien welcomed 140 new members to the order’s Southwestern Region through a formal Mass and Rite of Solemn Investiture at Vietnamese Martyrs Church in Arlington. Among them were 22 clergy candidates, including Monsignor Michael Olson, rector of Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving, and Father Raymond McDaniel, parochial administraoter of St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Lewisville, and Father Jeff Poirot, pastor Holy Family Parish in Fort Worth. The newly invested laymen, laywomen, and clergy joined with fellow members at the gathering and filled every seat in the main worship area of the largest-capacity church in the diocese.

Concelebrating the Mass with Cardinal O’Brien was Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, grand prior of the Southwestern Lieutenancy, along with several clergy including archbishops, bishops, and priests who are members of the order.

As the order continues to flourish around the world, its members’ resolve to help their brothers and sisters in the Holy Land remains strong.

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Cardinal O’Brien knights Rob Meyer (left) a parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Keller.

According to John Pritchett, an EOHSJ knight from Fort Worth, from 2001 to 2010 the order sent nearly $80 million to the Holy Land. EOHSJ provides financial support for Holy Land projects, including church and school construction, humanitarian aid, as well as repair and maintenance of holy sites such as the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem — the site of Christ’s crucifixion, burial, and Resurrection. Pritchett said the order’s Southwestern Lieutenancy has consistently ranked second of all lieutenancies worldwide in financial assistance to the Holy Land.

“The order is another apostolate for the faithful to humbly live the faith and follow the Lord's commandment to love God and to love our neighbor,” Pritchett said, “and to do it in the land of his Incarnation.”

The order’s mission is actually four-fold, as it aims to:

  • strengthen the practice of Christian life among its members;
  • aid the charitable, cultural, and social works and institutions of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land;
  • preserve and propagate the faith in the Holy Land; and
  • uphold the rights of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.

The order traces its origin back to the First Crusade in 1099, when its leader Godfrey de Bouillon, liberated Jerusalem and its holy sites, including the Holy Sepulchre, from Muslim forces.

Ben Doskocil of Arlington, who was knighted into the EOHSJ 40 years ago and took part in the recent meeting, said he considers himself and fellow members to be crusaders of another sort now.

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Father Raymond McDaniel, parochial administrator of St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Lewisville, served as choir director and organist for the Mass. Fr. McDaniel was among three diocesan priests to be invested into the order that day.

“Our goal is still to keep a Christian presence in the Holy Land,” Doskocil said. “Where people before us were crusaders with horses and swords, we are crusaders in a different way. We’re doing it now through prayers and financial support.” Doskocil and his wife, Mary Frances, have made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and are proud to support Christian businesses there.

Mina Milburn, a member of the order for the past six years, has also visited the Holy Land with her husband, Tony. Like the Dosckocils and the many other knights and ladies who have made the journey, they say the pilgrimage profoundly affected them. Although not a requirement for membership, a Holy Land visit is strongly encouraged.

“It’s like experiencing the material and the immaterial,” said Mina. “God gave us the world. He appeared in a particular place and did specific human things and God actions, and those places are important, just as the graces, the miracles, and the salvation are important.”

Commenting on the strong attendance at the annual gathering in the diocese, Mina added, “I saw so many men being knighted and women becoming ladies. It is such a beautiful thing that we have an order that is thriving and growing at this time in the history of the Church. And its mission is at the root and the core of our faith.”

New members Laura and Diaz Murray of Wichita Falls were among the new investees and look forward to their pilgrimage to the Holy Land. For now, however, they are thankful for the blessing of fellowship with multitudes of devout Catholics through the EOHSJ.

“This is like another layer of faith for us,” said Laura. “The more you experience in your faith, the more you want to learn and grow in it. This is another part of our faith journey.”

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Tessy and Bill Ross of Fort Worth, who played a key role in organizing the event, stand before the order’s banner.

New investees Debbie and Rob Meyer of Keller were moved by their experience in much the same way, especially the investiture Mass. During the ceremony, Cardinal O’Brien formally knighted the men through the medieval ritual of dubbing — touching his sword to each shoulder.

“It was unbelievable,” said Rob. “It was really an awesome experience. I’ve had ceremonies like this before. I was a naval officer, and I’m in the Knights of Columbus, but this was really something special.”

Rob explained that when a friend encouraged him to consider membership in the EOHSJ, he and his wife became interested after learning more about the order’s mission and its accomplishments.

“Both of us feel very strongly about supporting the Church in the Holy Land and the treasures of our faith,” said Rob. “But it’s not just that. We welcome the challenge to become better Catholics.”

Debbie agreed, adding that one of the most important aspects for her involvement with the EOHSJ is “growing closer to the body of Christ, not only in the local Church but to the Church that was established in Palestine by Jesus.”

Cardinal O’Brien told the North Texas Catholic that the large number of knights and ladies filling the church during the Mass and Rite of Solemn Investiture was impressive, adding that he was moved by the dedication of members in the Southwestern Lieutenancy.

“Their solidarity is so important for any endeavor, but certainly for the success of what we’re trying to do in the Holy Land,” Cardinal O’Brien said. “It sends a message to all our members and to others that the Church is very concerned about the Holy Land.”

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Cardinal O’Brien poses with officers and friends of the Southwestern Lieutenancy.

The cardinal added, “This is a strong lieutenancy. The leadership and the enthusiasm of the knights and ladies are really contagious.”

Cardinal O’Brien said he was also impressed that an overwhelming number of members gathered for the weekend had already made pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Earlier in the day, during one of the assemblies, he said he asked those in attendance to stand up if they had made a pilgrimage. “I looked out and about 90 percent of them were standing,” he said.

“No one can go there and leave unaffected,” said Cardinal O’Brien. “There is an overflowing grace in that land, still. Christ is still very generous in distributing his gifts to those who are concerned about his own family, his own people, and are concerned about the work that He did and that it continue.”

Through the work of thousands of current EOHSJ members, including those gathered in the Diocese of Fort Worth for the annual meeting and investiture, the order’s mission continues now as it has for centuries.

“What we’re saying is that you’re not alone,” Cardinal O’Brien said. “And this means a great deal to the diminishing number of Christians in the Holy Land and for all the people there who are looking for solutions.”

EOHSJ-BUTTON.jpgARLINGTON — In the Holy Land, a region now comprising modern-day Israel and Palestine, is best described by Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, as the “singular, unique part of the world where Christ walked, taught, performed miracles, and rose from the dead.” To preserve and promote Christianity in the Holy Land and to sustain the Catholic Church’s charitable work there, the cardinal traveled recently from Rome to the Diocese of Fort Worth from Oct. 25-28 to lead the annual meeting of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (EOHSJ), Southwestern Lieutenancy of the United States. The gathering drew in nearly 1,000 knights, ladies, and clergy of the lieutenancy, which includes Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and New Mexico. This regional unit is one of 61 lieutenancies around the world that are part of the 23,000-member EOHSJ.

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