The old saying, "Necessity is the mother of invention," was never truer than it was in the case of the founding of the Masonic Service Association. World War I saw a huge outpouring of patriotism and, of course, Freemasons were at the forefront. Grand Lodges wanted to do something to help our military personnel, both at home and overseas. There was a great feeling of frustration because the federal government would not deal with 49 individual Grand Lodges. Their response was, "If you can have one organization to represent Freemasonry, we will be more than glad to work with you."

So to meet that need, in 1919, the Masonic Service Association of the United States was formed. In 1996, delegates at the annual meeting of MSA voted to change its constitution to read "Masonic Service Association of North America," thus including Canadian Grand Lodges as full voting members.

In the very early years, MSA was to represent the Masonic Fraternity to those in the military service. In World War II, MSA had Masonic Service Centers all around the United States and overseas. At the end of World War II, the Service Centers program was changed to become how it is known today, the "Hospital Visitation Program." There are Masonic volunteers in 157 hospitals, numerous state veterans homes, and many military hospitals. In the year 2000, the MSA Hospital Visitation Program contributed more than 250,000 volunteer hours serving veterans' needs.

"In 1923, MSA expanded its scope of helping others, especially in the pursuit of Masonic knowledge, by including Masonic Education and The Short Talk Bulletin, a monthly publication devoted each issue to a subject of Masonic interest," explained Richard E. Fletcher, P.G.M., Vermont, Executive Secretary of MSA. Of course, other materials and publications have been printed as well. Over the years, MSA has become well known as an excellent source of Masonic information.

Also in 1923, the Disaster Relief Program was begun. The first appeal by MSA responded to the urgent needs of people in Japan after they had suffered a devastating earthquake and continues even today with an appeal through the Grand Lodges of New York and Virginia as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Appeals from that earliest Disaster Relief Program until early in 2001 have generated more than $4 million to help Masons and their families and the general public recover from disasters.

The Masonic Information Center was formed in 1993, supported by the noted Masonic author, the late Bro. John Robinson. The Center provides information to the general public, directly and through national and local media; responds to criticism of the Masonic Fraternity; and assists Grand Lodges and their members in disseminating accurate and authoritative information about Freemasonry within and without the Craft.

"There is no stronger supporter of Grand Master Cunningham's theme, 'H.O.P.E. ­ Helping Others Pursue Excellence,' than the Masonic Service Association of North America. The words 'hope' and 'helping others pursue excellence' are the very reason MSA exists," concludes Bro. Fletcher.