|Volume LIII||May 2006||Number 2|
A Message from the Grand Master
The first few months of my term as your Grand Master have been extraordinary. Norma and I sincerely and greatly appreciate the support and dedication of the Grand Lodge Officers and their wives as we traveled together across the state to the public presentations of our 12 new District Deputy Grand Masters and three new Grand Lodge Officers. These events were an excellent opportunity to involve our Brethren's families and friends in the celebration and recognition of their accomplishments and commitment to the Craft we love. The turnouts at these events were exceptional; nearly every Lodge room was filled to capacity, with the need to set up extra chairs to accommodate additional guests. We received warm welcomes from the many Brethren and their families, who appreciate the opportunity to be involved and learn more about the fraternity and our heritage. It is encouraging to realize that our fraternity means so much to so many non-members who have been touched by Freemasonry in one way or another.
On January 17, the 300th Anniversary of Bro. Benjamin Franklin's birth, I was proud to lead the more than 100 Brethren and their ladies who joined in the march to his grave in Philadelphia. We had the largest contingency within the parade, which was organized by the American Philosophical Society and the Friends of Franklin.
In February, we traveled south to bring a touch of home to our Brethren and Ladies in Florida. This year, we had the highest attendance at our Florida Masonic Reunions since they began nine years ago.
On March 1, we sadly said "good-bye" to one of our finest, devoted leaders when Winfield Scott Stoner, R.W.P.G.M., left this world to go be with the Great Architect. Our loss is heaven's gain. We will remember him warmly, with appreciation for his distinguished service to the Craft.
The March 18 Academy of Masonic Knowledge program for members initiated during the one day classes was outstanding! More than 400 Brethren attended, and it is my hope that the success of this program will encourage all Brethren to attend future Academy meetings and further their knowledge about Freemasonry. The exceptional presentations provided throughout the day proved that we do not have to go outside our very own jurisdiction to find knowledgeable Masonic scholars capable of articulating interesting, exciting and entertaining educational programs.
Many districts have achieved great success through the development of membership maintenance committees. They are focusing on increasing members' involvement in their Lodges and contacting those Brethren at risk for having their membership suspended. District 21, specifically, has reported a reduction in suspensions of 75 percent! District Deputy Grand Masters from Districts A and C have written a personal letter to every Brother within their district with the potential of being suspended for nonpayment of dues, explaining the benefits of belonging to our organization and encouraging them to retain their membership. Their efforts have yielded positive outcomes, and I know there are many more that I haven't heard from personally who are also doing an excellent job on this initiative. The more we reach out to our Brethren and encourage them to experience the many benefits of membership, the stronger our fraternity will become.
In the coming months, our Grand Lodge will see some significant changes. We will begin to share our magnificent treasure with outside organizations who wish to hold meetings and social and cultural events within the Masonic Temple. In doing so, we will maintain the integrity of our home, not losing focus on the original purpose of the Masonic Temple as a meeting place for our Lodges. This is just the beginning of a strategic approach to preserve our Masonic Temple. Taking the lead on these initiatives will be our new Executive Director of the Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania, Andrew Zellers-Frederick (see p. 3).
Since I took office and made the urgent appeal for funds to restore and preserve our Masonic Temple, our Brethren and Lodges have responded generously. Just from meeting visits, I have received more than $100,000 toward our goal. This is a tremendous start! Whether the donations come in increments of $5 or $5,000, each contribution is significant and brings us closer to fulfilling our great need.
I encourage you to get involved in the social fundraisers coming up in the next few months, such as the Mini Grand Prix at the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown and the Charity Golf Tournaments being held at three locations across the Commonwealth. Also, if you haven't done so already, remember to include our widows in one of your Lodge programs during the months of May or June.
For the first time in many years, our entire membership is invited to participate in the June Quarterly Communication, during which we will celebrate our Grand Lodge's 275th Anniversary. Our earliest evidence indicates that the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania met in Philadelphia as early as June 24, 1731. This special event will commemorate the growth and strength our forefathers and Brethren of today have worked so hard to foster and sustain throughout the years. I have chosen to host this event at the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown because I believe it is a wonderful testament to what our visionaries created and our membership has grown - a superb community to serve our Family of Freemasonry. All our Masonic Villages are a great source of pride within the fraternity for the exceptional work the staff performs each day on behalf of our loved ones.
Brethren, if we take to heart the oath and obligation we accepted at the altar and if we work from that premise, we will respond accordingly to the needs of our membership and our Masonic Charities and will treat one another as Masons Helping Masons.
Sincerely and fraternally,
Ronald A. Aungst, Sr.
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