The North Central Lieutenancy Annual Conference of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem was held in Milwaukee in 2018. The closing Mass — celebrated by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki — was held at the Basilica of St. Josaphat. (Submitted photo)

Members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem make three promises upon investiture: to pray for the Holy Land and the Christians living there, to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and to provide financial support for efforts in the Holy Land.

“Our contributions support 29 parishes in the Holy Land, several homes for orphans, schools that educate more than 10,000 pre-K through 12th-grade students, preparation for men becoming priests, the rehabilitation of homes for Christian families, support for senior care facilities in Bethlehem and Nazareth, and much more,” said Frank LoCoco, a section President in the Milwaukee area.

With the war between Israel and Hamas nearing a month in length, their work has come into the spotlight.

Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem who offered himself in exchange for Israeli children held hostage by Hamas, is part of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Cardinal Pizzaballa’s offer brings to mind St. Maximillian Kolbe, who took the place of a man sentenced to death by starvation in Auschwitz.

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is a lay institution of 30,000 men and women – knights and dames – from 40 countries around the world protected by the Holy See. Southeastern Wisconsin members are part of the North Central Lieutenancy consisting of Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, and Auxiliary Bishop Jeffrey R. Haines and James T. Schuerman are members, in addition to diocesan priests and lay people. Each lieutenancy is further divided into sections and delegations.

The aim of the order is to “strengthen among its members the practice of Christian life, to sustain and aid the charitable, cultural and social works and institutions of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, particularly those of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which also includes Cyprus and Jordan, thus supporting the Christian presence in the lands of the Bible,” according to the Order’s website.

The order also supports the presence of the Latin Patriarch, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who acts in a diplomatic role in addition to serving the “ultra minority” population of Christians in the Holy Land. “Approximately 1-2 percent of the population in the Holy Land is Christian,” said LoCoco. Some of the Christians supported by the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem are Palestinians living in Gaza. The order will continue to support them during the war between Israel and Hamas.

The order traces its beginnings to the first crusade and has documentation of investiture of Knights as early as 1336. Over the centuries, popes have helped the organization grow into what it is now. Most recently a new constitution was approved in 1977 and Pope St. John Paul II made the order a “legal canonical and public personality.”

On Oct. 17, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa called for a day of prayer and fasting for the people in the Holy Land.

“That is actually what all committed Christians are called to do in this very difficult time. Of course, money to aid services that directly serve the region during war also helps. The role of the order during war time is the same as it is during “peace” time; the truth is that it is always a precarious time in that region,” said LoCoco.

Those interested in learning more about becoming a member of the the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem can contact either Frank LoCoco ( or Lydia LoCoco (