Editor, County press
WOODSBORO — The Lopez sisters sat in the first row of the pews reserved for family members in the Catholic Cathedral in Tulsa, Okla.
Straining to look through the solemn procession, the sisters finally glimpsed Dr. Ann Lopez.
Walking slowly down the aisle and dressed in black, Ann donned a special elbow-length lace mantilla, imported from Italy. Caught in the moment, Ann was unaware of the tears streaming down Lorraine’s, Cindy’s and Maxine’s cheeks.
“We are so proud of her,” said Lorraine Lopez. “She was so beautiful.”
On this special day among family in October, Ann was invested as a Lady into the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
The origin of the order dates back to 1103, the First Crusade, when Jerusalem was liberated. After the victory, the first king of Jerusalem, Baldwin I, appointed knights from the crusader troops to the order he founded.
Very soon after the First Crusade, the knights returned to Europe. When the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem ceased to exist in 1291, the order was left without a leader. Though the order continued to survive, rarely did the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre ever take part again in military action to defend Christianity.
Rather, the order became the only lay institution of the Vatican State charged with the task of supporting the Christian presence in the Holy Land. The order is represented in almost every country in the world.
Today, the Knights and Ladies are tasked primarily with keeping the Holy Land safe and accessible to Christians, Jews and Muslims, as well as observing the principles of charity.
“I don’t feel worthy of this great honor,” Ann said. “I had wonderful parents who were faithful to the church. My mother taught me how to kneel and pray every night... to close the door and pray. My sisters and I went to retreats... yet, I doubted so much. I didn’t know what kind of a person I’d become if I stopped going to church. I was afraid if I quit going, I’d never go back.”
The path of one’s spiritual journey can take many curves and contours along the way – some expected and some not-so-expected.
A brush with death during a bad car accident shook Ann’s soul and shifted her life like a kaleidoscope.
“I was driving and had the right of way,” she said. “I saw the other driver who was fighting with the children in the car. I thought she would stop, but she didn’t.”
Before the two cars collided, Lopez saw three roads – all clearly stemming from the other car – none were paved and every road was treacherous.
Yet, in reality, the roads were visible only to Ann.
“I chose the one that would allow me to live and save the other person in the car,” she said.
Convalescing in a hospital, Lopez began to ponder why she was allowed to live and what God’s plan was for her.
“I became more prayerful and started paying more attention to my sisters and I became very faithful,” she said. “My younger sister Maxine taught me how to love and thrust through bad times.”
With renewed faith, the colors of spring shine brighter.
Ann’s journey is not yet concluded. Her nomination to the order by Monsignor Rory Deane and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and her appointment by Pope Benedict XVI have simply made the path more clear.
“In the future, I will make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land – I’ve started a kitty to do that.”