St. John’s week in St. Louis this year was especially joyful. It was both a time of new beginnings and of recovered traditions. Late June in Missouri can be terribly hot and tropically humid; but, for the Feast of St. John the Baptist this year, even the weather seemed to join in a spring-like mood of returning vitality and new beginnings.
This year, for the first time, Missouri Area Knights and Dames were joined by the Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre for Mass at Mary Queen of Peace Catholic Parish in Webster Grove, followed by a dinner at the nearby Algonquin Golf Club. The Mass felt like a new beginning in many ways. The principal celebrant was the Archbishop of St. Louis, the Most Rev. Mitchell Rozanski, ChC. The Archbishop has been hard at work too long to still be thought of as the “new” Archbishop; but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of his flock have been denied a chance to meet him in person. Thanks to the progress of vaccination efforts, those who felt comfortable doing so were able to bless themselves with holy water as they entered the church, to exchange the sign of peace with their fellow worshipers, and at long to last greet their shepherd in person.
At dinner, several distinguished visitors joined the Archbishop as the two orders’ honored guests. These included Peter Kelly, MD, GCM, President of the Order of Malta, American Association, Michele Bowe, SMOM Ambassador to the State of Palestine, and Kate Robinson, Executive Director of the Holy Family Hospital Foundation. They were welcomed by the local leaders of the two orders, Missouri Area Co-Chairs Kathy and Greg Gantz and Joan and Mark Guyol for the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, and by Michael Heck, KM, who serves on the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation Board.
President Kelly gave a brief introduction to the work of the Order of Malta, mentioning its links with the Order of the Holy Sepulchre and its current work in the United States, such as Malta Mobile Ministries, which is now operating in St. Louis. Most of the focus of the evening’s remarks, however, was on the work of the two orders in the Holy Land. Ambassador Bowe gave an update on the situation in Palestine, where the pandemic is still raging and where the vaccination rate is far below that of Israel, the region’s occupying power. She then focused on the inspiring work of the Holy Family Hospital, which bring first-world obstetric and neo-natal care to what is still a third-world nation. The members of both orders left with a renewed commitment to their orders’ missions: to serve the sick and the poor and to maintain the Christian presence in the Holy Land. Both missions are furthered by the loving service provided to all who need it by the Holy Family Hospital.
On the day before the celebration, Kelly, Bowe, and Robinson were able to meet with Missouri Area supporters of the Holy Family Hospital and to spread word of its work in the archdiocese. The message they brought of the many, many children brought safely into the world thanks to the Holy Family Hospital was the capstone of this Feast Day of St. John the Baptist celebration of hope and re-birth.