ROY J. LEONE
Deputy Grand Master, 2004
FEAST OF ST. JOHN, DECEMBER 2003
From Proceedings, Page 2003-200:
Grand Master, Distinguished Guests, and Brethren all:
No one can argue that our fraternity has gone through an incredible metamorphosis over this past year. A transition period like no other time in our existence. I feel that I have seen more changes in the last year than all the 23 years I have been a Master Mason combined. We have seen the lawful age once again reflect the sign of the times, recognizing that eighteen is considered lawful age. We have seen 44 Masonic Districts become consolidated and geographically relocated to 31 Masonic Districts, enabling brethren from surrounding areas to better enjoy District events which encourages District harmony. We saw a modified rebirth of the Lodge of Instruction, combining the best qualities of the old Lodge of Instruction with the Masonic Forums. Also, our Grand Lodge, via the vote of all its members, gave Grand Lodge members, being the Masters and Wardens, the ability to elect their Grand Treasurer once again. But the most significant change of all was the One-Day Class. This may not have been the first One-Day Class we ever had, but none has ever matched the magnitude by which this was accomplished. This change, however, caused quite a stir.
Sometime during the 2002 Masonic Year, the Grand Master approached Bro. Harvey Waugh and asked him to put together a One-day Class Committee. Many man-hours went into this project. This One-Day Class Committee got a lot of support from the brethren, but it also had its share of opponents. But for many brethren, it was day to day whether they supported this concept or not. A lot of questions were asked. But even the most ardent opponents had to agree that on November 1, 2003, this day turned out to be most impressive. The conclusion of this incredible event was that over 700 uninitiated men were transformed into Master Masons.
But this One-Day Class did create questions and concerns among the brethren, such as, have we substituted quality for quantity? Will our fraternity really reap any benefits by consolidating the three degrees into one day? What is in store for our fraternity if and when these new members no longer come to lodge? These are some of the concerns that were shared among the brethren. Good questions, which deserve thoughtful answers.
In order to find the answers to these questions, we must ask, what is our purpose and what are our goals for the future? Then we can make a determination as whether or not we are headed in the right direction. I am aware that our purpose and goals as Masons may vary from Brother to Brother. So I will attempt to be as generic in my interpretations as possible so we all can agree that we do share a common belief. So, what is our purpose and what are our goals? To me the purpose of Masonry is simply to be a vehicle by which Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth are exercised in our every day lives so collectively as a brotherhood we can make a difference, to an individual brother, his family, and his community. What are our goals for the future of our fraternity? I think we can best understand our future needs if we take a look at our past. An understanding of what we have done in the past will give us a better understanding of what we need to do for the future. We do not have to go back too far in time. Let's stay within our own time frame. So let's go back some sixty years, during a time when world peace was being threatened once again, but at the same time, when our fraternity was starting to enjoy a surge in its membership.
During the Second World War, brethren from all walks of life were being asked to serve their country and to protect the democratic way of life. But not all men were able to serve our country as a member of the armed forces. A group of brethren from Boston and surrounding communities noticed that due to so many men being sent overseas, this left a real shortage of blood donors. Like so many other things being rationed out, blood was not something that can be allotted on a monthly basis. Blood like everything else was in short supply. So they decided to sponsor a blood drive, then another and yet another. In 1948, Most Worshipful Roger Keith adopted the Blood program as part of Masonic Service. Since that time thousands of people have benefited from the ideas of a few.
Over the next fifty years, the Masonic Fraternity accepted new challenges, and created new Masonic services to help brethren and their families. In order to do this, our fraternity must keep up with the times in order to meet the needs of people that just a few years ago either did not exist or were not known to have existed.
In 1998, two brothers from Universal Lodge, Brother John Sherman and Brother Bob Fellows, recognized that there was a new group of people falling between the cracks and something had to be done. These people were not adults but children. More children today are falling between the cracks. During the Great Depression, the difference between the have and have-nots was minimal. But a soup kitchen and some donated clothes could make up the difference until a family got back on its feet. At that time families either had it or they did not. Today the difference has identified a new category of people: the have not enough. These are families who do not have enough to meet all of the every day needs to sustain a somewhat good quality of life, yet too much to receive social benefits. As a result, a child has to go without or with sub-standard goods to keep them warm in the winter or with eyeglasses that do not meet his or her eyesight needs. Two brethren knew that something had to be done. The Angel Fund was adopted by bringing together Brethren whose desire it was to make a difference in the life of a child, one child at a time.
Grand Lodge has since adopted the idea and now this Angel Fund is helping children in many communities around Massachusetts. Meanwhile, another Brother had an idea concerning our children. Too many children were missing in astronomical numbers each day: a parent's worst nightmare. Brother Dr. David Harte knew that something had to be done. One man's idea was supported by a group of men united together to give our children a lighting chance to be found and protected by a new comprehensive Child Identification Program. Hence, the Masonic CHIP Program has been adopted, and we are steadily coming to the 175,000th child to be processed in Massachusetts as well as seeing this program become national in scope.
Just a few years ago, M. W. Fred Kirby Bauer stood before us and reminded us that the new millenium was just around the corner and with it, challenges like we have never faced before. How prophetic those words were. On September 11, 2001, our lives would never be the same again. Immediately, M. W. Brother Bauer put out a call to every Masonic Building Association to make their buildings available to the American Red Cross for the purpose of helping the victims of that terrorist attack. He also set up a fund to give monetary support. This would have been more than enough for most, but not for the Masonic Fraternity. Brother Bob Shaunessey, seeing our country going to war against terrorism, and knowing that the families of our military men and women going off to war would and should receive our gratitude and support, organized many Masonic families, to run Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas Parties for the families of our service men and women. Blankets were sent to the Marines serving in Afghanistan, not just to keep them warm, but to use as a token of our friendship with the local people. In turn the locals would inform the Marines of enemy forces in the area.
The Masonic Fraternity is in the business to serve. To serve our widows, brethren who are hospitalized, families who need hospital equipment, educate brethren to protect their families by certifying them in CPR, assist our VA hospitals, in essence, to help the distressed, to soothe the unhappy is the great aim we have in view. We, as a fraternity, are challenged constantly. And each time we are challenged, we meet that challenge by way of one man's idea, with the support of others, to come up with a solution.
The whole point of reviewing just some of our past accomplishments as a fraternity is to realize that it takes many men to carry out the task to which this fraternity is committed. It takes dollars to see to it that the materials needed to assist those who are in need are available in order to meet the challenges that our society faces on a daily basis, and to make a difference in the quality of life for our families and the uninitiated. I would say that the one-day class has succeeded in reaching this objective.
But the question still remains, did we sacrifice quality for quantity? The quality of a new Master Mason should not be judged on the day of his raising. The quality of a new brother has a direct correlation to the quality of his fellow lodge members. We as Masons profess that we start our lives as rough ashlars and through our Masonic teachings, we endeavor to reach that state of perfection emblematically represented by the perfect ashlar. It is up to you and me to improve the quality of all our brethren, new and old alike. If a new brother does not come to meetings or does not wish to volunteer to participate in lodge functions, is it because he does not meet up to our expectations or is it because we did not take the time necessary to nurture him along? I would say that the one-day class has no more bearing on the quality of a new brother, as does the traditional method.
The simple fact is, Brethren, November 1, 2003, was not the conclusion of bringing in new members, but in fact just the beginning. Even though we just came off a successful one-day class, we cannot sit back as though our job is done. We must continue to keep our fraternity strong if we are going to continue to meet the challenges of the future.
And I believe that we are going to keep our fraternity strong, that we will continue to support programs, physically as well as monetarily, that will allow us to make a difference. Together we can do it. Together we will continue to make a difference.
Thank you Brethren.