Address of the Grand Master at Grand Lodge
INSTALLATION – GRAND LODGE – FEBRUARY 1, 2015 ALEXANDRIA, LA
Thank you all – thank you for staying and attending this Installation on Super Bowl Sunday, and listen to the plans for this year. Thank you to the Installing Team, MW Ballard Lee Smith who did an outstanding job, MW Ed Durham who asked GOD’s blessings on this event, MW Bruce Easterly and MW Chuck Penn for guiding and introducing and conducting the officers, and to W Bro R B Smith the Grand Ceremonial Conductor for keeping it going and on track. Thank you to each Officer elected and appointed who will serve this Grand Lodge this year. I want to pause and thank GOD for all of the blessings bestowed here today, and for my Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ for His Grace freely given to all, and especially to me. How glorious it is to have that assurance.
Most sincere thank you to family and close friends here – my Brother Gary, is always there for me and whom I love very much. My Lady Lydia Cook who is 100% behind me, and my love. My oldest and hopefully still best friend, Ronnie Seale, Grand Commander Seale & Lady Sunny, so many others dear colleagues from my Scottish Rite Journey – Jim Cole & Lady Mary Ann from Virginia, Roger Barnett from Kentucky, Dr James Graham from Arkansas, David Morgan from Nevada. Many close friends from my DeMolay Journey – Grand Senior Councilor Steve Crane, PGM Tony Krall, Shane Harshbarger, Bob Craig, and others here – all traveled many miles to be here. My friend from Mt Pleasant, Fred Allen, who just arrived from Reston, VA, and Lloyd Hebert and Lady Connie who flew back from Reston also. Bro Lloyd was installed as Right Eminent Deputy Grand Preceptor for HRAKTP, a 12-year line and he becomes the head next year – thank you all for being here this afternoon. My dear Brother, closest adviser, friend, hotelier, and Installing Officer MW Ballard Smith who has pushed and mentored and reviewed each year as I moved toward this moment – Dr George Jones my good friend and my personal attitude adjustment director; to my Brothers and friends who have traveled here today, to those from my Lodges – Trinity Union #372, East Gate #452, Nine Muses #9 – pleases walk beside me this year – thank you for the love, encouragement and support given to me from all of you. There are many remembered who are no longer here who encouraged, supported, trained as best possible, and pushed – great men who allowed me to walk beside them treating me as an equal, and at times lifted me on their shoulder so that I could observe better, including me in decisions and making me aware of true responsibility: A G Seale, Claude Bonnecarrere, Lloyd Pence, Ray Burgess, Roy Posey, and others. I know that the spirit of my parents is also here with me too – long gone from this earthly realm, but in my heart every day pushing me to be the best possible.
Most of you are aware that I have a progressive form of Muscular Dystrophy (MD – the Jerry Lewis Telethon medical issue), an inherited disorder that curses my Mother’s side of our family. While this inconveniences me in some situations, be patient with me as I walk slower, climb curbs and steps carefully, have a balance problem and sometimes prefer using a walker over a cane – I will be at as many meetings, events and activities as possible. Everyone has been very helpful and thoughtful due to this inconvenience, and for all of those instances, I thank you.
Brethren, Ladies and Friends all – we all begin a new Term today, many ideas, many projects – yet how much can we all accomplish in a short twelve months. A wise older Mason once told me when he observed a new Grand Master’s visit to my Mother Lodge and this Grand Master had all types of different thoughts and new ideas – the older Mason turned to me and said, “Well, he is a nice fellow, I even voted for him, but he will be gone in a short time and we can go back to the way things were.” I remember that. But I learned that Masonry exists through the ages by doing what is right, not always by what someone wants to get done, like a newly-minted and installed Grand Master full of grand ideas – we do change, not by much each year, but we do change by doing what is right. You may have noticed that the lapel pin for this year has several emblems – an outline of Louisiana, a square & compasses, and a small flower, the Blue Forget- Me-Not. I am honored to be a member of the Masonic Society of the Blue Forget-Me-Not and what it stands for and memorializes – that little emblem on the lapel pin is a reminder that we, Freemasons, Free Men & Women, Americans, people of the world, must never forget. We must remember that freedom is not free, responsibility for each other never ends, duties to care for and help, aid and assist are part of who and what we are.
This year – you are each asked not to forget – to remember our Brothers, our Widows, our children who rely on us.
Freemasonry has created an incredible organizational network of philanthropic endeavors worth billions, with a “B”, of dollars to help others – mostly children. In our own small Grand Jurisdiction, Louisiana Freemasonry, alone, expends almost $1,000,000 each year to assist childhood learning disorders, dyslexia, diabetes, denistry for handicapped, sending ministers to the Holy Land, not to mention the additional seventeen million dollars used to operate the Shriner’s Hospital in Shreveport. But, lest we forget – We need to pay attention to our own – our Members who need us to assist them. Those who are ill, handicapped, in nursing homes, disabled, unable to drive, who need a helping hand, a phone call, a visit, someone to run an errand – our Brothers need us. We need to re-focus our attention and remember our own.
Lest we forget – Our Masonic Widows need us. When did you last call a Masonic Widow in your Lodge – drop off a small bag of groceries or offer to take her to the grocery store? When did you invite a Masonic Widow to a Lodge’s family night / Bring-A-Friend / 25 & 50 Year Member Program / Past Master’s Night? Did you think about her on Memorial Day, on Easter, on Thanksgiving, on Christmas? Does that Widow have family near her to care for her, invite her to family gatherings – or does her family live far away, sometimes forgetting her? Does she need a lightbulb replaced in her home? Does she need someone to drive her to a doctor’s appointment? Does your Lodge hold a Widows’ Program during the year? This year, I ask every Lodge to expand to thinking about our own – our absent Brothers and our Widows. Every Lodge is asked to personally contact every Member and check on every Widow. Faith, Hope & Charity, that Charity which we call Love – “and the greatest of these is Love”. Let us remember to love our Brothers and cherish our Brother’s Widows.
Two primary programs this year will be to first contact every member in every Lodge and check on his welfare – does he need his Lodge to assist – he has kept faith with his Lodge and paid his Dues; he has not forgotten his Lodge over the years – has his Lodge forgotten him? The second project will be to find and contact all Masonic Widows in each Lodge – we promised to care for them – let us not forget. Look at the Blue Forget-Me-Not on that lapel pin and remember. The Grand Senior Warden will be promoting and monitoring this important aspect for this Term.
Louisiana’s Grand Lodge has nineteen Masonic Districts with 10 to 22 Lodges in each. Some Districts cover large geographic areas, some small urban areas. A study committee was appointed over a year ago to recommend what, if any, changes could be made to improve communication, visitation, Brotherhood throughout this Grand Lodge relative to the District alignment. This year nineteen Grand Stewards who are R:.W:.District Deputy Grand Masters have been appointed, and each District made those recommendations and were asked to recommend an Alternate. Duties are assigned to every Grand Steward, and number one is to visit every Lodge within that assigned District at least once during the year and report on several area of the Lodge’s Masonic activities. The Deputy Grand Master will be assigned the responsibility of gathering those reports, reviewing the information and making recommendations of lodges’ ability to meet the requirements of holding a charter, practice Masonry and meet in a safe and secure lodge. Lest we forget – this Grand Lodge has a serious need to maintain certain standards.
Louisiana’s Grand Lodge recognizes and had chartered hundreds of Lodges, recognizes hundreds of Eastern Star Chapters, dozens of Royal Arch Chapters, Royal & Select Councils and Knights Templar Commanderies, Scottish Rite Valleys, and Grottoes, Shrine Centers, DeMolay Chapters, Rainbow Assemblies, Amaranth Courts, Red Cross Conclaves, many York Rite Honors groups, Scottish Rite auxiliary groups, Daughters of the Nile, Beauceant Courts, and on and on. While my closest friends accuse me of belonging to most, no one is certain how many groups we actually have operating in this Grand Jurisdiction, and their purpose for existing. Obviously there is an interest in having all of these groups or they would not exist and have any members. If a Master Mason joins a Lodge, and his wife then joins an Eastern Star Chapter and both become active and involved in Eastern Star, that Master Mason, in my mind, is fulfilling his Masonic duty. He might never become active or involved in his Lodge, but he is active and involved in the Masonic Family. This year, the Grand Junior Warden is tasked with discovering, cataloging and producing a comprehensive Directory of the organizations in Louisiana’s Masonic Family, including the name and purpose, when and where each meets, and describing any charity supported and financed by the organizations and with what results. Toward the end of the Term, a Masonic Congress will be called for allow representatives from these organizations to gather, review the Directory and compile a master calendar of events for the following year(s) that keeps potential conflicts from being scheduled on the same dates in the same areas. Years ago, this Grand Lodge had a Coordinating Cabinet to perform just such a duty, but no leadership led to its demise. The Grand Junior Warden will provide that leadership this year and hopefully such an assignment will continue for years once begun. Lest we forget – we are a Family.
The District Grand Lecturers are entrusted to be the guardians of proficiency in Masonic ritual – so this year, I charge each District Grand Lecturer to visit every Lodge within his Lecture District and grade every Lodge on Opening & Closing – and then to hold a de-briefing on what the grade was – good points and possible areas to improve, but in that Lodge and with the Officers present, and in a positive manner. Further, each District Grand Lecturer is to hold at least one Ritual Workshop during one District Lodge meeting on Opening & Closing Lodge in the Entered Apprentice Degree.
To the Permanent Committee on Work is given the duty to craft a Monitorial Burial/Inurnment Ceremony for proper Masonic Honors to be accorded those who choose cremation. This Draft should be prepared by the July 18, Quarterly Meeting. The second task is to examine the age-old system of Certification of Proficiency. A Master Ritualist Program could be explored as a step toward someone becoming interested in achieving a full Certificate of Proficiency. The current system is stagnant and needs refurbishing – proficiency is important, but not every Mason is interested in ritual; make the program a step-by-step process to achieving a full Certificate. The Grand Junior Deacon is empowered to work with the District Grand Lecturers and the Permanent Committee on Work to fulfill these duties and within the timeline outlined. Lest we forget our Ritual binds us as Brothers and reminds us of promises and obligations – we must keep the esoteric work interesting and challenging for all members.
Almost every Grand Lodge with whom this Grand Lodge holds recognition exchanges Representatives – to be named the Grand Representative to another Grand Lodge should be an honor. This year, by the October 17, Quarterly Meeting every Grand Representative of this Grand Lodge is asked to submit a copy of some exchange of information with their counter-part in the sister Grand Lodge, a letter of greeting, a program of attending the Grand Lodge or a function of that Grand Lodge, a fraternal visit with their counter-part, some indication that the Grand Representative attempted to exchange fraternal greetings – or the Office of that Grand Representative will be considered vacated and a new Grand Representative will be named prior to the next Grand Lodge. The Office of the Grand Secretary can supply every Grand Representative with the name and contact information of their counter-part. The Grand Marshal will monitor the progress of this Grand Representative program and report on results within the stated timeline. Lest we forget – the Honor of Grand Representative carries some responsibility.
Grand Lodge 2016 will be held in this same location next year on January 29-31, and the Grand Senior Deacon is the Director General of that Session. His word for that Session is law. The Grand Standard Bearer and the Grand Master’s Aides are assigned to the 2016 Grand Lodge Session Committee and the Director General will delegate duties and responsibilities accordingly. Lest we forget, the next Grand Lodge Session is only 12 months away.
Masonic Education is important and needed and should never end for any Mason – we must never forget that we should learn something new each day – why not make that something Masonic. The monthly Grand Lodge mailing has for years included a one-page Masonic Quiz to be hopefully used in every Lodge to enlighten and teach. The Masonic Education Committee has labored to bring new educational information and material to all Brethren. Our LOUISIANA FREEMASON is another tool to inform and educate our Brethren – it should be more than a “picture booklet” of happenings – you just received the latest edition of the FREEMASON, a new format, good information, an excellent edition. The Grand Sword Bearer is tasked with Chairing the Masonic Education Committee, editing and producing quality issues of the LOUISIANA FREEMASON and ensuring that an education program continues this year to enlighten, stimulate and excite all members about Masonry, which will include the Annual Wardens’ Retreat and any Workshops. The Grand Pursuivant will be the Vice Chairman working with the Chairman and assigned responsibilities by the Chairman.
Membership’s 3 R’s – Recruit, Retain, Restore – are not followed well within Masonry, yet Masonry states that Membership is the lifeblood of the organization. The Membership Development Committee Chairman is the Chairman for all membership efforts this year. The Grand Master Expert, Grand Hospitalier and Grand Inner Guard will be working as Co-Vice-Chairmen of the Membership Committee this Term. Every member should have a petition available at all times, every member should be able to explain Masonry at any moment, every member should be able to explain the process to become a Mason. A package with a brochure, a petition and a “quick facts” on Masonry is a goal for this Committee to place in every Master Mason’s hands this Term. A “TUFOR” medal has been developed also and will be presented to every Mason who recruits a new member to replace himself and sponsors a new member to grow his Lodge – 2 for Masonry – TUFOR. Keeping who Masonry has is important and involvement in the Lodge is key to retention. Making a Brother feel welcome, meaning what the ritual words say, making his Lodge a part of his life will keep a Mason coming back and becoming active. Recognizing members who perform and participate can be as simple as asking a Brother to stand and saying “Thank You!” The idea of selective invitation, better investigative processes and holding members responsible to assigned tasks can also lead to responsible membership growth. Let us not forget that not too long ago this was the way it was done. We state that a Mason cannot ask a good man to become a Mason; well, his wife can; I have approached several good men over the years and asked, “What Lodge do you belong to?” – when they respond that they are not a Mason, my usual response has been, “What a shame, you seem like the type of man who would be.”
Let us not forget that many good men know nothing about Masonry – we can enlighted them without point-blank asking them to join. Let us not forget that Charity is the cornerstone of Freemasonry – first to our Brothers, then our Masonic family members, then those who need our assistance. This year, you are asked to support the Grand Lodge Philanthropy, Dyslexia, by making a pledge to financially assist in growing the Program. If your Lodge has a Red Apple set on the Altar at the end of each communication, pledge at least the amount collected quarterly to the Dyslexia Program – Associate Grand Chaplain R B Smith is asked to promote this concept. Another program most worthwhile in this Grand Lodge’s growing support of the Louisiana Special Olympics – an incredible Program supported by Louisiana Law Enforcement agencies. Again, pledge quarterly the Red Apple funds to Special Olympics – W:.Bro:. Donald Buxton will again serve as Grand Torch Bearer, supported by W:.Bro:. Charles Bertrand as Associate Grand Torch Bearer, and work with Special Olympics to have Louisiana Masons increase their support of this wonderful Program.
Our Masonic Youth Programs need our support – in 1965, the Order of Rainbow for Girls had over 50 Assemblies in Louisiana with several thousand young ladies as members, Grand Assembly, the annual convention would have over 1,000 girls attend. The Order of DeMolay had 28 Chapters in Louisiana with 800 members, over 250 young men would attend Conclave, the annual convention. Today, 50 years later, we do not have those numbers, yet there are more young men and women who could well use the lessons of life and precepts instilled through these organizations. Many of us in this room today are products of those lessons and precepts. I ask, encourage and beg you to support our Masonic Youth, Rainbow and DeMolay – serve as an adult volunteer, advisor, and lead you sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandsons an granddaughters to join. Our generation and our next generation needs Rainbow and DeMolay – Masonry needs that next generation. This year, the Grand Marshal who is also the Executive Officer of Louisiana DeMolay and an Active Member of the International Supreme Council of DeMolay will work on the Grand Lodge Youth Committee with two very dedicated and respected Rainbow Advisors, MW Frank duTreil and RW Rory Bozeman, and each will be actively seeking your support for Rainbow and DeMolay.
For too long, this Grand Lodge has tip-toed around, looked the other way, and failed to see that Freemasonry exists outside of this Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons in Louisiana. There are good men, upright and true, who belong to these other Masonic organizations that this Grand Lodge does not recognize. Reality is before us and studying who, what and where these groups are within Louisiana is needed. Therefore, a Grand Lodge Study Committee is hereby empaneled to study the regularity of other unrecognized Masonic organizations, contact these organizations as needed, and report to this Grand Lodge at our next Annual Grand Lodge Communication any recommendations that the Study Committee may develop. M:.W:. Clayton J. Borne, III, M:.W:. Roy B. Tuck, Jr, and M:.W:. H. Edward Durham, all respected Past Grand Masters who truly love Masonry and this Grand Lodge, have agreed to serve on this Study Committee. This may be a controversial matter that is being brought before the membership, it will not be the last this year. Work together for peace and harmony and there will be no controversial matters. Lest we forget – each Mason in this room has said, unqualified, that he believes in the ‘Fatherhood of GOD and the Brotherhood of Man’.
My Brothers and Friends of Masonry – Many programs, ideas and suggestions are offered to you through this address. Will any be accomplished? I hope many will be accomplished, or at least started. Remembering what that old Past Master of my Lodge said years ago – this TERM lasts 12 months – it will be up to all of us to make any changes needed, add programs that will grow our Lodges, keep our Brotherhood strong and focused on Friendship, Morality and Brotherly Love. Lest We Forget – the 12 months have begun, let us move forward. I know that we have some pictures to take of all of the new Officers before we all depart, so we will do that as quickly and efficiently as possible. I hope to see all of you at the Grand Master’s Homecoming on March 22. Thank you again for being here.
We have some clearing and packing to do, so let us pray and then close this Grand Lodge Session and be on our way – Brother Installing Grand Chaplain.
Benediction – I now declare this Grand Lodge Session closed. GOD be with each of you – go in Peace!
William J. Mollere, Grand Master