New Holy Sepulchre Knights, Dames to ‘Lift Up Christ for All to See’ 


In a solemn centuries-old ceremony Oct. 15 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Cardinal Dolan invested 80 new members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. In addition, 55 existing members of the Order were promoted in rank. 

The lay men, laywomen, clergy and religious joined an international papal organization dedicated to sustaining the religious, spiritual, charitable and social works and rights of the Catholic Church and the Christians in the Holy Land.

The new knights and dames, clad in floor-length capes embroidered with a red Jerusalem cross, stood as Michael J. L. LaCivita, chancellor of the order’s Eastern Lieutenancy, read the decree of investiture and asked for their assent to the responsibilities entailed. The Eastern Lieutenancy is a jurisdiction encompassing New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

 “Becoming a Knight or Dame means dedicating your life with commitment to profess the faith of Christ through witness, generosity and love for the Gospel. This implies placing Jesus Christ at the center of our existence and of every personal, family and social project,” the decree said.

As they knelt in pairs in front of him, Cardinal Dolan used his crosier to “constitute and proclaim” each new member and then presented each with a cross. The women wore black lace mantillas and the men donned black velvet berets after the investiture.

LaCivita, who is director of communications for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, told Catholic New York that members of the order support specific initiatives of their lieutenancy, but are also expected to work closely with parish and diocesan efforts. All are obliged to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land at some point.

Each year, the Eastern Lieutenancy funds a year of theology study at St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers for two students from the Latin Patriarchal Seminary in Beit Jala, a Palestinian Christian town in the West Bank. The local group also supports a feeding program for special needs children at the Holy Child Center outside Bethlehem. 

Sister Teresita Morse, R.J.M., associate to the vicar for religious for the archdiocese, became a Dame of the Holy Sepulchre at the ceremony. She was nominated by Sister Joan Curtin, C.N.D., vicar for religious, who has been a member of the order since 2016. 

Sister Teresita told CNY, “The quiet deep passion for the Lord’s Church among the members and in particular the group’s ministry in the Holy Land, inspire me deeply and give me great hope for the future of the Church. The spirituality of the group is very uplifting and calls me to a deeper living of my religious vows.”

She said the investiture was especially poignant for her because both her parents were members of the Eastern Lieutenancy.

Sister Joan said she was moved by her pilgrimages to the Holy Land before and since she joined the order. “You never hear the Gospels in the same way again. You walk where Jesus walked. You see it with your own eyes. The Sea of Galilee is real,” she said. “Having Mass and quiet time at the Holy Sepulchre, where He was buried and rose, makes an encounter with Jesus so much more viable,” she added.

On her most recent visit, Sister Joan shared a meal with Muslim and Christian students at Bethlehem University, the only Christian university in the Holy Land. The school and its hotel management program receive support from the order. 

“Having the opportunity to dialogue with students and listen to their hopes and dreams makes the situation very real,” she said. 

The investiture was followed by a concelebrated Mass. Cardinal Dolan presided and Msgr. Kieran Harrington was the homilist. Msgr. Harrington is national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

Msgr. Harrington urged members of the Order to demonstrate the relevance of the Gospel in their everyday lives and to wage war on complacency by choosing the higher good. He said the distinctive clothing associated with the Knights and Dames could be perceived by others, including family members and colleagues, either as “the outward manifestation of God’s glory and majesty or an anachronism of sentimental Renaissance haberdashery.”

“Our membership in the Order of the Holy Sepulchre affords us the opportunity to lift up Christ for all to see through our disposition to charity and living a life dedicated to others,” he said.