SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. – Seton Hall University President A. Gabriel Esteban, the first Filipino American President of the University since its founding in 1856 together with Father Christopher Ciccarino, S.T.D, associate dean of the University’s Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology, were inducted as knights in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. An investiture Mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York was held in late September to honor their selection to the Order. Being knighted in the Order of the Holy Sepulchre is one of the highest papal awards for clergy and laity in the Catholic Church.
The chivalric order dates back to the First Crusade in 1099, and its mission is to support the Christian presence in the Holy Land through fundraising and advocacy. Pope Francis approved the nominations of President Esteban and Father Ciccarino, which were submitted by the Most Rev. John J. Myers, archbishop of Newark.
“I am truly humbled to receive this honor and thank His Grace, Archbishop John J. Myers for considering me worthy as a candidate,” said President Esteban.
Knights of the Holy Sepulchre are chosen for their deep Christian faith, their involvement in the Church at the parish and diocesan levels, their ecumenical spirit and their interest in the Holy Land.
“When the bishop makes this recommendation to the Holy Father, he is saying this person is of high moral character,” said James Goodness, archdiocese spokesman. “It is very easy to see that both Dr. Esteban and Father Ciccarino, as administrators and teachers in a Catholic educational setting, have been very active in promoting the Church and its teachings. Because of that, they have been chosen for this personal and prestigious honor in the Church.”
At the investiture Mass, the new knights received the emblems and insignias of the order, including a white cape bearing the Cross of Jerusalem, a collar cross, and a lapel pin. In addition, they are expected to follow the three virtues of the order – a willingness to subordinate their personal good to the needs of others, support of the poor, and the pursuit of justice and peace for all people. The order supports the building of schools, shrines and seminaries in the Holy Land as well as projects such as housing, scholarships, business start-up loans, and other types of social work. The charity of the order is provided to all those in need, regardless of their religious beliefs.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn officiated at the investiture Mass, which was followed by a banquet at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan.
In November 2012, Philippine Ambassador to the U.S.,Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., Dr. Esteban, and Ambassador John K. Menzies, Dean of the John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations (WSDIR) at the University signed a partnership agreement “to strengthen relations between the Government of the Philippines and the WSDIR. Consul General Mario De Leon, Jr., of the Philippine-Consulate General in New York also signed as witness.
Under the agreement, the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the WSDIR will share relations publications and information regarding courses in international relations and diplomacy. Relationships between respective libraries will be established whereby projects in areas of mutual interest, particularly in research projects and the organization of conferences, seminars, and workshops in the field of diplomacy and global concerns will also be shared.
Ambassador Menzies credited Dr. Esteban, an alumnus of the University of the Philippines, for “creating actual working relationships with the Philippines”. Philippines is the second government, after Portugal, which the WSDIR has entered into such an agreement.