Middle Atlantic Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem makes 1.5 million dollar gift to Bethlehem University


Washington, DC – At 9:45 EST, His Excellency Michael J. Ruck, KGCHS, Lieutenant of the Middle Atlantic Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, announced at the annual Investiture that the Lieutenancy has made a gift in the amount of $1,500,000.00 to Bethlehem University.  The gift underwrites the University’s current Institute for Community Partnership (ICP) Expansion Project.  The building, once completed, will be named in honor of the late Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, His Eminence John Patrick Cardinal Foley.  The Lieutenancy first learned about the upcoming project from Mr. John Schlageter, Executive Director of the Bethlehem University Foundation.


The funds come from a bequest to the Lieutenancy from the Estate of Lady Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko.  A portion of her estate was entrusted to the Lieutenancy by Lady Rose to assist in the charitable works of the Lieutenancy.


Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko was born on May 14, 1919 in the historic town of Fulda, Germany.   She was the youngest of twelve children.  Rose settled in the United States in the late 1930’s and founded, “The Sewing Shop,” which grew and was eventually renamed, “The House of Fine Fabrics,” a corporation numbering seventeen stores when sold in 1978.  Rose was known for her life-long dedication to Catholic and other philanthropic works. To learn more about Lady Rose, please click here.


The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is the only lay institution of the Vatican State charged with the task of providing for the needs of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and of all the activities and initiatives to support the Christian presence in the Holy Land.


His Excellency, Michael Ruck, Lieutenant of the Middle Atlantic Lieutenancy, USA, said:
“The work of Bethlehem University is at the heart of the mission of our Order.   As the only Catholic University in the Holy Land, Bethlehem University gives daily support to the remaining Christian Community.  Additionally, the University is creating an environment where all live in peace in the hope for a better future.  Having recently returned from a visit to the Holy Land I cannot think of a more fitting way to honor the life and legacy of Cardinal Foley while also fulfilling the wishes of Lady Rose than by supporting Bethlehem University.”


Known as an, “oasis of peace,” in a land characterized by conflict, Bethlehem University was created following the historic 1964 visit of Blessed Pope Paul VI to the Holy Land.  The University is a joint venture between the Holy See (Vatican) and the De La Salle Christian Brothers.  It is the only Catholic/Christian university in the Holy Land.  As such, the University serves as one of the few remaining hopes for maintaining a Christian presence in the Holy Land.  The mission of the University is to provide quality higher education to the people of Palestine and to serve them in its role as a center for the advancement, sharing, and use of knowledge. Bethlehem University aspires to foster shared values, moral principles, and dedication to serving the common good.


Brother Peter Bray, FSC, Vice Chancellor of Bethlehem University, said:
“I am ever mindful that Bethlehem University would not exist but for the generosity of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.   Once again, the Order has led the way by giving their direct support to the work of the University.  Once completed, the ICP Expansion will be a fitting testament to the life of His Eminence John Patrick Cardinal Foley – a great friend of Bethlehem University on whom I had the privilege of bestowing an honorary doctorate shortly before his death. It will also serve as a testament to the long and lasting relationship that exists between the University and the Order of the Holy Sepulchre in our joint ministry of supporting the Christian Communities in the Holy Land.  I thank the Middle Atlantic Lieutenancy for their extreme generosity in support of Bethlehem University.”


The Bethlehem University Foundation is the U.S. not-for-profit organization charged with the mission of supporting and promoting Bethlehem University in the United States.


John Schlageter, Executive Director of the Bethlehem University Foundation, said:
“I am thrilled that the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre has once again taken the lead in supporting Bethlehem University.  My membership in the Order is what motivated me to accept this newly created position 5 months ago.  I am honored that the Foundation was able to play a role in securing this substantial gift for the University.  The generosity of the Middle Atlantic Lieutenancy and Lady Rose will allow Bethlehem University to continue to serve as an oasis of peace in the Holy Land.”