|Volume LVI||October 2009||Number 3|
R.W. Grand Master
It has been the privilege of this Master Mason to serve as Grand Master over the last two years. It has been one of the most humbling and rewarding experiences of my lifetime. Pat and I have been received with unlimited kindness across our magnificent state. Thank you for making us part of your family wherever we traveled.
Brother Marvin Cunningham, R.W.P.G.M., thank you for providing me with the Masonic experience of a lifetime. It has been a personal mission to bring honor to the position you entrusted to me. I have done everything I could to serve with the same honor, values and quality of character I observed in you. It is this Master Mason's prayer that your confidence was well placed.
As your Grand Lodge Officers have traveled throughout the state, we have been genuinely impressed by how hard so many brethren are working for our gentle craft. We see this in the pride of a lodge when we join the brethren in the celebration of an anniversary of their lodge, the Wardens' Workshops, Schools of Instruction and in the day-to-day lodge activities. Clearly, our lodge officers, current and upcoming, are working hard to build a stronger tomorrow for their lodges. We see those who are not a 'Past,' as well as those who are, demonstrating their pride in their lodge and their fraternity by sharing in these laudable goals. We have accomplished a lot, but we still have much more work ahead of us.
In order for us to strengthen our beloved fraternity, and in turn give it to our successors in better shape than when we received it, it takes work by all of us, not just our lodge officer corps. Our Masonic traditions, heritage and values were given to us by those brethren who came before us, and these are ours to protect for future generations. For some brethren, it will mean adopting new practices.
We are seeing Masonic Districts rising to levels of ritualistic proficiency and officer depth that has not been accomplished for decades. I would like to personally challenge lodges which have not yet embraced these higher ritualistic standards to do so for the good of the fraternity, today and tomorrow. You do not arrive there in the first year of a rebuilding effort. It takes time. We are in a marathon not a sprint. This is not easy, nor is it done without much work and individual effort. This Grand Master extends his eternal gratitude to those brethren who are part of taking their lodges and districts to new levels of achievement. You are to be commended and complimented for your hard work and your efforts. You are living examples of the Masonic Spirit we are working to demonstrate to the world. Your accomplishments are truly significant and will be recognized by future generations of Masons as such. To you and those who have supported and assisted you in working to accomplish this component of our beloved fraternity - Thank you!
It is necessary to understand that it is not just the ritual. Improved work is essential and contributes to the complex challenges of building an active, involved and educated membership. Sustaining camaraderie in our officer ranks and the rekindling of the Masonic Spirit in more and more brethren is what we are working to achieve. In working toward the goal of increasing the quality of the fraternity, we can contribute to other goals such as retaining members, encouraging members to be more active and involved, and perhaps commanding the attention of non-Masons by assisting in sparking their interest in petitioning our ranks.
The Unity Gavel and Unity Box are completing their two-year journey and are on course to having visited every lodge in our jurisdiction. To date and with three more months to go, there have been almost 13,000 touches to the Unity Gavel in its travels. Their travels have both physically and symbolically linked Pennsylvania Masons in every Masonic community in our state. By the physical passing of the Unity Gavel from one brother to the next, we are symbolically united as a band of brothers and are reminded that the care of our fraternity is briefly in each of our hands.
Over the last two years, we have also seen the work on and completion of the exterior conservation of the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia, the home of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. This impressive edifice is now restored to its original brilliance and magnificence. Our Masonic ancestors gave us this gift, our generation restored it, and now future generations of our brethren will enjoy this piece of their Pennsylvania Masonic heritage. Masons of our generation are blessed to have been personal witnesses and participants in this successful exterior conservation effort.
Our lodges have had, at no cost to them, the enhanced ability to communicate with their membership with the "Call 'em All" program. This has assisted in improving participation at lodge and district level functions. When a brother passes, this has been a powerful tool in creating maximum short-term notification permitting brethren to pay their final respects.
In excess of $244,000 has been contributed by the brethren around the state to the "Change for the Troops" program. For myself, there is no doubt that this is the most emotional program over these two years. By this effort, the Pennsylvania Masonic family has been able to tell our troops in the desert: thank you for your service and sacrifice. The entire Pennsylvania Masonic family has come on board for this effort: our Blue Lodges, Grand Commandery, Grand Council, Grand Chapter, O.E.S., DeMolay, Rainbow, Job's Daughters, Scottish Rite, National Sojourners and more, as well as some very generous personal contributions and private efforts at raising funds have all caused this dollar figure to be arrived at. On behalf of the troops who have benefited from your kind generosity - THANK YOU.
Along with the United States and global economies, Grand Lodge has addressed the most demanding financial crisis and associated challenges in many generations. Tough times have required tough decisions. Through significant persistence and effort, your Grand Lodge Officers, those brethren in positions of financial responsibility in Grand Lodge, the staff of Grand Lodge and our Masonic Villages, and even our Masonic Villages' residents, successfully rose to meet these challenges head on. The financial integrity and financial status of your Grand Lodge and Masonic Villages remains secure. It is believed that the worst of these financial times are behind us. We all hope that we will never experience this type of financial trauma again.
In another couple of months, Brother Tom Sturgeon will serve us as our next Grand Master. It has been my pleasure to have known Brother Tom since our terms as District Deputy Grand Master overlapped back in 1992 and through, to, and including our service together as elected Right Worshipfuls. Because of Tom's demonstrated integrity, leadership and love for our fraternity, it is in full confidence that I know he will serve us well as our next Grand Master. Brother Tom, it will be with great pride that I will have the privilege of addressing you as 'Grand Master' and I am looking forward to your service in this capacity.
To my fellow Grand Lodge Officers, it has been a privilege to have served alongside you. Your personal friendship, counsel and the support of you and your ladies have made the experiences of the last two years simply magnificent. There are not words to properly communicate my fraternal love for each of you. You are the most trusted and respected brothers I have. You will no doubt continue to serve with distinction, lead us successfully into the future and excel in doing so.
This is no doubt the most difficult part of this message because of its personal nature. You cannot serve in this capacity without the support of your entire family. Together over the last two years, my beautiful and amazing wife of 35 years, Pat, and I have shared this amazing journey. Pat has been my strongest supporter and, when necessary, a polite but candid critic. The sacrifices of this service were shared and all too often hers. Pat asks for nothing, but I owe her everything. She, too, has served this fraternity. Pat, from myself and also from the Masonic family in Pennsylvania, thank you for what is very rightfully said, your service to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Pat, I loved you yesterday, I love you today and I will love you tomorrow. I will love you forever.
In this service, the fraternity often has a window to part of your personal life. We shared our family with the fraternity. You became part of their family, too. You met our son, John, his beautiful wife, Bethany, and their beautiful then-newborn daughter, our favorite granddaughter, Alexis, at the Annual Grand Communication in Philadelphia in December 2007. Now, they have blessed us with a second 'Grand' child, our favorite grandson, Heath. I shared the pride of a father when John and I both served in the East at the same time. You shared in our prayers as our son, Peter, was deployed to the desert and safely returned home. We are proud of his personal sacrifice and of his service to our Great Nation. And now we also look forward to welcoming his fiancée, Jessica, to becoming part of our family. And recently, with the passing of Pat's mom, your prayers, phone calls, cards, letters and expressions of sympathy, helped us at a very difficult time in our lives.
How can you properly thank all who have made the last two years so amazing? You cannot. Everywhere it has been and will always be the people we have met. Pat and I will always remember you. Thank you for being such a great part of our lives.
Sincerely & fraternally,
R.W. Grand Master
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