Help for the Holy Land

Findlay - The words knight and dame might sound like they belong in the Middle Ages, but for members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, they are just as relevant today as ever.

Stretching back to the first crusade, it is the oldest chivalric order in the world. Godfrey de Bouillon founded the order and dubbed knights to protect the Christian presence at the Holy Sepulchre. For nearly a millennia, members have continued with three simple goals: "to strengthen its members in the practice of Christian life in absolute fidelity to the Supreme Pontiff and according to the teachings of the Church; sustain and aid the charitable, cultural and social works and institutions of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.”

Today, the order has approximately 30,000 knights and dames in its ranks from countries across the globe, including monarchs, crown princes, and heads of state, and Catholic authors and television contributors like Dr. Scott Hahn and his wife, Kimberly, Dr. Matthew Bunson, Joan Lewis, and Steve Ray.

The order is broken into areas known as Lieutenancies. The North Central Lieutenancy includes Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The areas are further broken down, typically into an area that covers a diocese. Until 2019, the Diocese of Toledo section was combined with the Diocese of Cleveland. There have been members from Toledo in the past, but no living members remained in 2018 when James Powell stumbled across a photo that caught his eye -  man wearing a white cape with a red Jerusalem cross insignia. He decided to find out more. Now, two years later, James is the President of the newly formed Diocese of Toledo section. He was invested into the order in 2019, along with Brian Whitta and Msgr. William Kubacki. Maggie McDaniel will be invested later this year. In the short time, the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre has become a passion for James. He explains that the methods for helping keep a Christian presence in the Holy Land are different today than they were when the order was founded but no less important. “We’re not taking up swords today, but we are trying to keep a Christian presence there,” James remarked. “Pilgrimages to the Holy Land helps maintain that presence. But, most of our direct support is monetary.” Financial support includes hospitals, orphanages, a university through the guidance of the Latin Patriarch. 

Brian Whitta, Msgr. William Kubacki, and James Powell after their investiture.

Another crucial element to membership is faith. “Equally important is our prayers. The Church in the Holy Land is experiencing a lot of persecution, so prayer is very important,” James explained. It’s one of the reasons that members are chosen from Catholics who lead exceptional lives of faith. Members must be nominated by a current member for consideration into the order, and then approved by the parish priest and bishop before final approval from the grand master of the order, currently Cardinal Fernando Filoni. It is a serious commitment; once you are invested, you are a member for your lifetime. In addition to monetary support and prayers, members must make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land once in their lifetime. 

While it is a great commitment to join the order, members consider it a great honor. Dr. Scott Hahn shared online, "It’s a great honor to belong to the Order of the Holy Sepulchre and to support our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in the Holy Land — amidst much suffering and conflict." James Powell shared that he feels honored to be among the members. He hopes to find more men and women across the Diocese of Toledo with a passion for upholding the Catholic faith and protecting the Christian presence in the land where Jesus himself lived. 

If you would like to learn more about the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, contact James Powell, Section President, at