More than 225 knights and dames of the Middle Atlantic Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem gathered in Nashville for the annual investiture retreat weekend Oct. 26-28. It was the first time that the regional event was held somewhere other than Baltimore or Washington, D.C.
The lieutenancy includes 11 archdioceses and dioceses in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and the Archdiocese of the Military Services.
The order traces its roots to the first crusade to the Holy Land in 1103 when its leader, Godfrey de Bouillon, liberated Jerusalem. As a papal order, the group is now charged with the protection of the Holy Land, particularly the Holy Sepulchre and its members support efforts to protect Christians in the area.
The Holy Land contains sites important to Christians, Jews, and Muslims and has been troubled by division for centuries. Christians currently make up less than 3 percent of the population of the region.
At the Investiture Mass at the Cathedral of the Incarnation celebrated by the Middle Atlantic Grand Prior, Most Reverend William Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore, welcomed 29 people into the order. Fifteen of the new knights and dames are from the Diocese of Nashville.
“I was extremely proud of the efforts of the Nashville members of the order and of the support that we received from our local Catholic Community to make our guests feel welcome,” said Sir Edward Stack, a Knight Grand Cross of the Holy Sepulchre and section representative for the Diocese of Nashville. “Her Excellency Valencia Yvonne Camp, Dame Grand Cross of the Holy Sepulchre and Lieutenant of the Middle Atlantic Lieutenancy, commented about the beauty of our cathedral and the wonderful voices of our Cathedral choir being accompanied by our new organ.”
Most Reverend J. Mark Spalding, Bishop of Nashville, who was invested in the order last year in Washington, D.C., encouraged the effort to bring the weekend retreat to Nashville and served as host for the gathering. He celebrated the annual Memorial Mass at the Cathedral remembering knights and dames who have died in the past year.
“Besides three religious services at the Cathedral, the group also made visits to the Motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation and the Catholic Pastoral Center,” Stack said.
“The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is dedicated to the care, support, protection, and promotion of the Christian community and the sacred sites in the Holy Land, a mission which could not be more timely,” said Father John Hammond, a vicar general of the Diocese of Nashville and a knight of the order.
“It was a privilege to welcome a large group of Knights and Dames of the Holy Sepulchre to Nashville for a time of prayer, formation, and investiture of new members,” Father Hammond said. “In the context of beautiful liturgies in our Cathedral church, a pilgrimage to the Dominican Motherhouse, times of Eucharistic Adoration and praying the holy rosary together, this group of faithful Catholic Christians offered an entire weekend of heartfelt prayer to God for peace in the Holy Land, while continuing the important work of supporting and caring for our most sacred sites.”
“It was an honor for the diocese to play such an instrumental role in the life of the order,” said Sir Brian Cooper, a Knight Commander with Star of the Holy Sepulchre and chancellor and chief operating officer of the Diocese of Nashville.
“The new members of the order help revitalize our group and advance the mission for the future. Nashville is such a welcoming place and provided fertile ground for the spiritual and educational formation for the knights and dames. The local community, and particularly the staff and choir at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, set the stage for a joyful gathering as our members made new friends and renewed friendships with others in our lieutenancy,” Cooper added. “We received a tremendous amount of positive response to the entire weekend and know that members of our order found the investiture retreat weekend to be an enjoyable and fruitful gathering.”