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Richard E. Fletcher, 33
Executive Secretary, MSA & MIC
Silver Spring, Maryland

Two national Masonic organizations help the Craft meet today’s challenges.


From its very beginning in 1919, the Masonic Service Association of North America (MSA) has dealt with challenges to Freemasonry. In fact the very formation of the Masonic Service Association was to meet a challenge.

Our original goal was to be a united effort on the part of United States Grand Lodges to give assistance, aid, and comfort to our uniformed military personnel. World War II saw Masonic Service Centers in both this country and abroad to provide a relaxing and comfortable atmosphere for soldiers and sailors.

After the war, thanks to the strong support of President and Brother Harry Truman, 33, MSA began its Hospital Visitation Program. A pioneer organization in assisting patients in V. A. Hospitals, MSA has completed more than 50 years of volunteer service

Now, we must meet the new challenge of working with the Veterans Association Volunteer Service (VAVS) in the transition of patient service from mostly in-patient to mostly out-patient care. New opportunities to assist our veterans in out-patient clinics and outside extended care facilities challenge us to meet those needs.

Working with VAVS, the Masonic Service Association is presently sponsoring a series of seminars to define current patient non-medical needs and to develop a volunteer care plan to meet those needs. Our goal is to involve every Masonic Lodge in this plan by urging each Lodge to appoint volunteers to work with our MSA Hospital Representatives. Caring for the sick and afflicted, with special emphasis on our veterans, is still one of Freemasonry’s greatest challenges.

Pictured (l. to r.) are Roger Wells, a patient at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Madison, Wisconsin, who is awaiting a lung transplant. He is drinking coffee with Teresa Chervenka, a Social Worker at the hospital, and John (Jack) Miller, MSA volunteer at the Center. Roger Wells admitted he was very nervous about the transplant operation and says he is supported by “Jack Miller’s care and concern. Jack has opened his heart and home to me. He is a warm person.” Miller says, “We hit it off right away, we have a lot in common. I think the world of these guys and what they are going through. It gives me a boost to do things for them and to meet their families.” This is one story among thousands that could be told about the care, concern and love given by MSA volunteers to the lonely and oftentimes forgotten veterans in our Veterans Administration hospitals.

The next Masonic challenge, after the V.A. Volunteer Program, was to deal with Masonic education and information. The Short Talk Bulletin, a monthly booklet on a subject of Masonic interest, has been published since 1923. There are now almost 900 Short Talks in print. Many digests and books, informational lists, videotapes, newsletters, and research resources are also available. As has often been said, a well-informed Freemason is our greatest asset.

A most difficult challenge was how to help those in dire need from the effects of natural or man-made catastrophe. This challenge was met by our Disaster Relief Program. An appeal is made by the Masonic Service Association to all North American Grand Lodges on behalf of a stricken Grand Lodge when a catastrophe occurs.

From its initial appeal, which resulted in a donation of $1,577 to provide earthquake relief to Japan in 1923, to the most recent appeal in 1997 to provide $165,000 in flood relief for Minnesota and North Dakota, the MSA Disaster Relief Program has sent Grand Lodges nearly $4,000,000. There were no administrative fees or costs of any kind deducted from the amounts given.

Normally, the appeals are made to help in the recovery from such natural disasters as earthquakes, floods, or hurricanes. However, a man-made disaster, like the bombing in Oklahoma City, resulted in a magnificent response ($89,962) to all those in need.

The latest Masonic challenge to be addressed is that of media and public awareness. Freemasons have not been actively present in the public eye for at least the last 30 years. As a result, vicious attacks on our Fraternity by a few extremists have had greater effect than in years past, primarily because the public has no basis of comparison.

The good work done by Freemasons is not noticed the way it used to be, and when we are called Satan-worshippers, the general public often has not heard any other opinion. This situation was a cause of great concern to Ill. John J. Robinson, 33. Because of his foresight and insistence, the Masonic Information Center (MIC) came into being in February 1993.

The Masonic Information Center has published a number of brochures and booklets that respond to the religious extremists’ criticism of our Fraternity. (See facing page.) The Center is also becoming known to the media, and we are being interviewed about Freemasonry by both print and audio/visual media. Also, we have established good contacts with the Catholic Church and are attempting to resolve misunderstandings that have existed for centuries. Conspiracy theories, unjust accusations, and fear mongering cannot be overcome overnight, but steady progress is being made by the Masonic Information Center.

To meet the challenge of membership in the Masonic Service Association, in 1996, we changed our Constitution so that we are now the Masonic Service Association of North America. As a result of this change, several Canadian Grand Lodges are now members of the Masonic Service Association.

Challenges are with us always, and they are a necessary part of life. The overall purpose of both the Masonic Service Association and the Masonic Information Center is to work with the Grand Lodges and other Masonic Bodies to assure that Freemasonry is always able to give a strong, timely, and positive response to those great challenges.

MASONIC INFORMATION CENTER

Publishing Factual Information About Freemasonry

BROCHURES

A Response To Critics Of Freemasonry

Brochure responding to several alleged points of conflict between Masonry and Christian theology. #BR-120 5¢ each (any quantity) plus shipping.

Facts About Freemasonry

Brochure answering many of the most frequently asked questions about the Fraternity. #BR-110 5¢ each (in any quantity) plus shipping.

BOOKLETS

There Is No Sin In Symbols

16-page booklet showing pictures and explanations of symbols used in everyday life and symbols used by Masons and Masonic-related organizations with explanations about their origin and meaning. #BL-201 25¢ each (PPD); 40% discount in lots of 50 or more copies, plus shipping.

What’s A Mason?

16-page booklet describing the Masonic Fraternity and its purposes. Explains what happens in Lodge meetings and answers many frequently asked questions about the Fraternity. #BL-202 25¢ each (PPD); 40% discount in lots of 50 or more copies, plus shipping.

BOOKS

Is It True What They Say About Freemasonry?

By Art deHoyos and S. Brent Morris (foreword and addendum by Jim Tresner). A response to some of the more virulent anti-Masons, this book takes on several of Masonry’s critics and refutes their charges. For example, Albert Pike and the “Luciferian” doctrine; James Dayton Shaw’s “exposé” of Freemasonry; Ron Carlson’s lectures on the “Evils of Freemasonry” are discussed and refuted on a point-by-point basis. The 1997 Second Edition is updated with 100 pages of new material. Available through MIC @ $7.50 (PPD); quantity purchase (50 or more) 40% discount, plus shipping.