It's been 23 months since I took office as your Grand Master, and together we have accomplished many exciting and significant ventures that have strengthened Pennsylvania Freemasonry and our outreach into our communities.
The Man to Mason classes were successful because of the involvement, commitment and teamwork from our membership, and the response from those who joined us during these one day classes. They sparked excitement and a new commitment to reaching out to good men and Sharing the Light. Through your efforts, we gained thousands of new members and leaders who have brought new ideas and enthusiasm into our lodges. Even though only 5 percent of the membership actually was a first line signer on a petition in 2004, it was still the most successful membership initiative program that the Grand Lodge implemented in 42 years, and it showed that there are many men out there who still want to be Masons.
Whether you signed a petition, mentored a candidate, worked on a degree team, served on a reception committee or in any way took part in any of the Man to Mason classes, you should feel proud as you did your part to build-up our fraternity with quality men who will perpetuate our traditions and Share the Light within their own families, friends and communities.
Whether you are a new member or a third generation Mason who has earned your 50-year Emblem of Gold, I encourage you to make the most of your membership. Be sure to get your money's worth out of Freemasonry:
Visit your Masonic Temple in Philadelphia and see for yourself why it is considered an architectural wonder. Take a tour into the past among the treasures that form our history and our heritage.
Visit one, if not all, of the Masonic Villages. Yhey are growing and thriving in response to interest and needs demonstrated by our members and their families. Take the time to meet some of the residents and staff providing services to over 2,400 Masons and their families throughout Pennsylvania. Call ahead and tour some of the recently renovated areas in Warminster, Lafayette Hill and Sewickley and the newly constructed cottages in Elizabethtown. The upcoming Dallas community is 70 percent reserved, and if approved by the Committee on Masonic Homes, construction will begin in 2006.
Help to strengthen our fraternity for tomorrow by starting with our youth of today. Get involved with one or more of our Masonic youth groups, which present opportunities to enrich young lives and share our Masonic principles so young men want to become Masons as soon as they are eligible.
Mentor a candidate. We must continue to guide our newly raised members so their pride in our Masonic heritage grows along with their commitment and involvement.
Take a leadership position within your blue lodge or appendant body (Scottish Rite, York Rite, Shrine, Order of the Eastern Star, etc.)
Become more involved by learning to confer ritualistic degree work.
Bring Freemasonry full-circle by sponsoring a new candidate, and giving him the same gift of membership that you enjoy!
The Masonic CHIP Program that started with a single generous donation of $50,000 and an aggressive goal to ID 50,000 children throughout 2004, grew through the enthusiasm and support of members, their families and lodges into a tremendously successful outreach. We almost doubled that original goal last year, CHIPing about 98,000 children in 2004, and this year are well on our way to IDing another 200,000 kids by the end of 2005.
The program began with two cameras and now the fraternity has 60 in operation across the state, along with the use of two CHIP vans. In two years alone, we have held CHIP events in about 20 percent of the state's school districts, as well as numerous others in lodges, centers of worship, shopping malls and at community events.
I extend my sincere thanks to all of the districts, lodges and appendant bodies that volunteered with the Masonic CHIP Program to make our local communities safer.
Two organized motorcycle rides to Sturgis, SD were a wonderful experience and opportunity for over 100 Masonic motorcyclists to enjoy, explore and appreciate the beautiful country that we live in. The camaraderie between the "bikers" from across Pennsylvania has led to the establishment of two Masonic motorcycle clubs in the Pittsburgh and Reading areas. Under the auspices of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, these clubs, known as Hiram's Scottish Rite Riders, are dedicated to raising funds for the 32° Masonic Learning Centers for Children, which provides free treatment for children with dyslexia.
Brethren, Pennsylvania Freemasonry has never been stronger. Let's continue to work together to Share the Light of Freemasonry by keeping membership at the forefront in our minds, caring for our Brethren, and their families, and reaching out to help others in our communities. So Mote it Be!