By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator

Members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem prayed for the protection of Catholic Christians in the Holy Land during a Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael G. Duca on Oct. 30, the feast day of Our Lady Queen of Palestine, at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Baton Rouge.  

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Members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem gathered Oct. 30 for the Our Lady Queen of Palestine Mass at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Baton Rouge. Photo by Debbie Shelley | The Catholic Commentator 


Our Lady Queen of Palestine is the patroness of the order, which is among the ancient chivalric orders dating to the crusades and chosen to “guard the most sacred spot in the Holy City of Jerusalem and Christendom, the tomb of Christ,” according to Hank Heroman, president of the Baton Rouge section of the Southeastern Lieutenancy of the United States. 

Knights and ladies of the order support the church and Catholic religion in the Holy Land and promote the preservation and propagation of the faith there, Heroman said. They support churches, orphanages, universities, schools and clinics.  

To better understand their undertaking, members are strongly encouraged to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and walk in the footsteps of Jesus and see “what Christians are up against.” 

Heroman was moved by a visit to the Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem, which is operated by the French Daughters of Charity, only 1,500 steps from the birthplace of Christ, the Church of the Nativity. 

In the hospital there are two special units. One is the only neonatal intensive care unit in Palestine, where 90 percent of at-risk births are delivered. Another special unit is for orphans. 

When Heroman visited the facility, there were newborn children and about 60 children who were up to age 5 1/2 years old. 

“What was touchng was that during the entire time we were there the children did not argue, they did not fight over toys and there were very few toys. They were so well behaved,” said Heroman.

He noted that the Daughters of Charity are able to care for the children up to age 5 1/2, and then they have to be placed with local families, where many live as second-class family members, are last at the table, first for the work assignments, and are generally considered second class members of society. 

“Many of them do not receive an education, so they have a very austere life ahead of them,” Heroman said. 

He also visited a senior citizen facility in East Jerusalem where many older citizens go because their children have migrated out to search for a better life. He said there was a security wall near the front door.

In order to get residents in and out of the facilities, local residents have to be hired to bring them up steep steps to the road where a vehicle will them to their destination. 

“Just take a trip to the Holy Land and God will show you the things you need to see,” said Heroman. 

With these things in mind, the knights and ladies offer their support and come together in prayer, with the Our Lady Queen of Palestine Mass a special opportunity to keep their mission in mind and fellowship with each other. 

Harold Bahlinger, who has been a member of the Equestrian order for the past 35 years, said the knights and ladies have a joy knowing they are involved in preserving Christ’s presence in the Holy Land. 

“This is a wonderful, holy group of people who are committed to the Lord and his work,” said Bahlinger, who noted that the Equestrian Order unites their work with other Christian organizations in the common goal of making Christ known in Jerusalem and the entire world. 

At the Mass, Bishop Duca, a member of the Equestrian Order, was joined at the altar with Our Lady of Mercy Pastor, Father Cleo Milano, parochial vicar Father Nutan Minj IMS and Father Joseph Doyle SSJ. 

In his homily, Bishop Duca encouraged members stay strong in their vocation to pass on the traditions, faith, prayer and works so people will know Jesus truly walked the earth and is “Emanuel” is present among us. 

“You are the pilgrims and teachers that that keep the faith alive in this world,” the bishop said.