By Eric Martin
The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem gathered last weekend at St Mary’s Cathedral Perth for the appointment of a new Lieutenant to head the Order’s WA chapter.
Kevin Susai KC*HS was sworn in as Lieutenant on Sunday 26 May in front of a full congregation, including the Knights and Dames of the order who attended dressed in full regalia.
The Mass, presentation and homily were delivered by Cathedral Dean Rev Dr Sean Fernandez.
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 of all the activities and initiatives to support the Christian presence in the Holy Land.
The contributions made by its members are therefore the Patriarchal institutions’ main source of funding.
The Order contributes to the preservation of ecclesiastical bodies, hospitals, dispensaries, laboratories and social centres.
Jack Gardner, incumbent KC*HS Lieutenant, spoke to The Record after the Mass.
“The Lieutenant has a lot of responsibility, he doesn’t even, in a sense, answer to the Archbishop – he answers to the Cardinal in Rome.
“He is responsible for all decisions of the Lieutenancy of WA so it’s an important role and carries a lot of responsibility.”
“He has the tenure for four years or he can do it for eight years,” Lt Gardner said.
“We wish Kevin good luck in his hard work and I’m sure that the Holy Spirit will be guiding him.”
The members of the Order and their invited guests celebrated Kevin’s appointment after the ceremony with a shared meal and refreshments in the Parish Centre below the Cathedral.
Speaking to the assembled Knights and Dames, Lieutenant Susai shared his gratitude for the appointment and demonstrated the Christian leadership that saw him selected for the role:
“My brothers and fellow Knights and Dames, it’s an honour and it’s also humbling to be able to lead you for the next four years at least,” Lt Susai said.
“But if there is one thing that I could ask you today, that is to remember the Archbishop (Costelloe) in your prayers. He has such a responsibility for our Archdiocese, he’s in the process of organising the Youth Festival as well as the Plenary Council. It’s important that we do that because he needs all the strength of the Holy Spirit.”
The Order’s hierarchy is divided as ecclesiastic and lay: the first, headed by the Master of Ceremonies, is responsible for the Order’s spiritual development; the second, headed by the Governor General and the Chancellor, is responsible for managing the Order.
The task of the ecclesiastical hierarchy is to define programs and events to be put in place to develop Members’ spirituality.
The task of the lay hierarchy is to carry out the Order’s social and charitable activities on behalf of the Holy Land.
Geographically, the Order is subdivided into Lieutenancies, each led by a lieutenant such as Lt Kevin Susai, with suitable candidates for each post suggested by the immediate superior and submitted to those in higher positions and the Order’s council (the Grand Magisterium) for final approval.
The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre traces its origins back to the liberation of Jerusalem in 1099 by Godfrey de Bouillon and his Crusaders. Over the many centuries, the Order has suffered many trials and tribulations during the Middle Ages and beyond but never completely disappeared in common with the Holy Land.
In 1847, Pope Pius IX reconstituted the order to encourage the re-establishment of a Catholic faith community in the Holy Land.
Pope John Paul II, in a speech to the Order in 2000 to celebrate its Jubilee, said: “this great Pope restored the order’s original function, but with a significant difference: the custody of Christ’s tomb would no longer depend on the force of arms, but on the value of a constant witness of faith and solidarity towards Christians residing in the Holy Places”.
The Order currently has 53 Lieutenancies: 24 in Europe, 15 in North America and Canada, five in Latin America and six in Australia and the Far East.
At present, the number of active members is around 23,000.
The Order’s policy has been, and still is, to help the Christians in the Holy Land achieve educational and professional standards that will enable them to play an active part in the society of their own country and develop a harmonious community at a level that will give them equality with people of other faiths.
Since the end of the 19th century, the Order has financed the construction of 40 patriarchal schools in Israel, Palestine and Jordan and it now has a commitment to fund their running costs.
Currently, about 19,000 students attend these schools.