|Volume LIII||November 2006||Number 4|
A Message from the Grand Master
In July, I had the privilege of attending the Northeast Conference of Grand Masters in Baltimore, Md. We met in the former Grand Lodge of Maryland building, which has been converted into a convention center attached to the Tremont Plaza Hotel. While it is a great facility, I couldn't help but to think to myself what a shame it is that in several jurisdictions, Grand Lodges have been unable to maintain their temples, which have been subsequently purchased by other corporations or entities and restored to their original grandeur - but for a purpose other than their Masonic origins. We, as Pennsylvania Masons, cannot allow this to happen to our Masonic Temple in Philadelphia; it is our obligation to restore, maintain and protect for perpetuity the majestic home of our Grand Lodge!
I am inviting and encouraging our entire membership to attend the December Quarterly Communication to see firsthand the wonderful changes their contributions and efforts have made possible up to this point.
In addition to the generous donations we've received through our lodges, leading the way for the renovations and restoration of the Masonic Temple are the more than 40 individual contributors who have given $1,000 or more to the Temple Initiative. One such example is Bro. and Rep. Bill DeWeese, to whom I recently had the privilege of presenting a Diamond Level Pin in the presence of his parents, who reside at the Masonic Village at Sewickley. At the same time, I was honored to present his father, Bro. J. Victor DeWeese, with a 275th Anniversary coin and acknowledged his receipt of a certificate for 60 years' membership.
One current renovation project is focusing on enhancing the dining area on the ground level of the Temple, where most of the local lodges meet monthly for their banquets. This area is also used as an overflow and as a dining facility for our Quarterly Communications. The contractor for this project is the firm of Bro. J.J. DeLuca, a prime example of another Mason Helping Masons. Some of the changes will include replacing the fluorescent lighting with recessed lighting and chandeliers upon a new decorative acoustical ceiling. A coat room will be built; the floor will be carpeted; and the columns will be re-turned and will exhibit a faux finish to emulate marble. The partitions will be removed, and round tables will be added so that the atmosphere encourages more socialization and open discussion. A new, state-of-theart audio-visual system will be installed in this large banquet room, as well as in the John Wanamaker Room, the Grand Banquet Room and Corinthian Hall. The marble floors throughout the entire building will be polished to bring back their original luster.
Some other improvements may not be able to be seen, but they can be felt. On schedule to be completed by the December Quarterly Communication is a $1,054,000 contract to improve the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, which is so vital to the restoration and maintenance of our Temple and its many treasures.
Of course, even more valuable to the strength of our fraternity are our members. Last year, more than 2,500 brethren were suspended for non-payment of dues. This year, my goal is to reduce that number by 50 percent. Under the guidance of the Membership Maintenance Committee, lodges have established committees of at least three members, who, along with their District Deputy Grand Master, have been responsible for the success of this endeavor. As a team, these committees are charged with calling members periodically throughout the year to keep them informed of happenings within their lodge and district, thereby demonstrating the value of membership. Without that personal communication with our brethren, we may not know their reasons for not attending meetings and events. For example, I recently learned from the wife of a brother who had been active in his lodge for 41 years that he was receiving hospice care. I was able to give this information to his lodge so that his brethren could assist as needed and take care of remitting his dues. It's often that personal contact - letting a fellow brother know he's not forgotten in his time of need - that can truly demonstrate what fraternal love is all about.
Our trip to Canada this summer demonstrated that Masons Helping Masons is universal within our brotherhood. When Norma and I arrived in Ontario to attend the 151st Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario, we unfortunately discovered that our luggage hadn't arrived with us. Once M.W. Grand Master Gary Laverne Atkinson found out I was unwilling to come into the Communication unless I had the proper attire, within ½ hour I was given a tuxedo by R.W. Bro. Robert Cresswell and regalia by R.W. Bro. William Malmo, D.D.G.M. (intended for his successor). The following morning, M.W. Grand Secretary Bro. Terry Shand volunteered his collar to wear as I was presented in Grand Lodge. Needless to say, what could have been an embarrassing moment turned into a humorous one, thanks to Masons Helping Masons!
Sincerely and fraternally,
Ronald A. Aungst, Sr.
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