~The Grand Master's Message~

Masters, my Colleagues of Grand Lodge, Distinguished Brethren, Ladies and friends.

        It is very heartening to see and to welcome all of you here today to the Investiture Service of our appointed Grand Line Officers. This magnificent Tompkins Chapel, situated on our beautiful Masonic Home Campus, is inspiring to all who come here to visit.   It continues to remind us of our faith in God and that we are all Brothers on the level.  We ask His continued guidance as we begin our work this year for our beloved Craft.

        It is critical for any organization to have total commitment by its officers and its members to succeed.  We must work together as a team to accomplish the goals and objectives that have been set.  There is no room in this Fraternity for self-serving individuals, or groups of individuals looking to be stars.  We will succeed with all members pulling together.  There is also no room in this Fraternity for inactive Lodges or Districts.  We must face reality and look to merge Lodges and Districts when all other means of revitalization have been tried with no success.

        The Staff Officers and District Deputy Grand Masters are selected by the members from within the ranks of their Districts and are now in a leadership role that will challenge them in the months ahead.  You must lead by example. The work I will request of you will require some long hours, but leaders must work the longest hours to pave the way.  You will not be alone.  I, together with your Grand Line Officers and your Grand Lodge, will assist you in every way possible to attain the goals.

        My theme is "Brotherhood and Patriotism" which is the essence of our Craft, and is displayed in the design of my lapel pin.  I had adopted this theme prior to September 11, 2001 because I felt we had to return to the roots of our Fraternity.  We needed to remember that we are a fraternity. We should have fun, enjoy ourselves, but most importantly we need to care for one another and look out for our Brothers and their families.

        My son-in-law, Lee Fehling, who was one of the firefighters who died on September 11th, designed my lapel pin and it now has a deeper, more significant meaning to me.  The pin expresses my feelings that I am the Grand Master of Masons in “The State of New York”, and that I will travel from Niagara Falls in the West, to the Adirondack Mountains in the North, to the Metropolitan Region in the South, and to the eastern part of Long Island, to be with and to assist the Brothers of this great jurisdiction.

        Any organization must have a Mission Statement that tells you what that organization is about and why it exists, and it should have a Vision Statement that asks the questions, "What do we want to become? Where are we going? What do we want to be three, five or ten years from now?" Through the efforts of the Grand Lodge Long-Range Planning Team, we developed the Mission Statement and my Vision Statement for the future.  The Statements were listed in the Committee Reports booklet at the Grand Lodge session and were approved by a vote of the District and Lodge representatives.

        Our Mission Statement: Freemasonry is a world wide organization composed of men of high integrity who join together under the Fatherhood of God to further the practice of a moral code — proven by a long and distinguished history; relevant to the complexities of the world today, and founded on the highest standards of ethics, honesty and character.  

        My Vision Statement: That from our vibrant and visible Lodges, the well-understood Craft of Freemasonry is a critical element in the success of every community, providing men of character and moral fortitude in all leadership roles.

        The Mission and Vision Statements will be included in all that we do, every issue of our ESM magazine, Brother-Bring-a-Friend Night, Road To The East, the new Masonic Development Course, and will be kept in the forefront of all Committees and their goals.

        Our programs have been, and continue to be, developed for our Communities because the number one reason individuals join organizations is for Community involvement. We will continue our involvement with quality programs within our Communities so that Freemasonry becomes their number one choice to look to for assistance, and when the men in those communities look for a meaningful life of commitment, accomplishment, family and personal development, Freemasonry is their first thought. The Mission and Vision Statements are available in a pamphlet, which can be used separately or can be inserted in the “Who Are The Masons” brochure. 

        There are two primary areas on which Lodges and all members will focus : They are New Members and Loss Prevention.  I am setting a goal of a ten-percent increase in New Members and a five-percent reduction in Loss Prevention over the next two years.  I know it sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t.  Everyone says that only ten per cent of their members are active within their Lodges and ten percent of our 70,000 members is 7,000.  Since membership is everyone’s responsibility, the goal is for each Brother to bring in just one member, and the ten percent would be met. If you use the term “Bring in Your Replacement” (eventually we all will be replaced) as the military does, then we will meet the goal.  

        In the Loss Prevention area I don’t believe we are doing enough, and I want all Lodges to use the Loss Prevention Program which Grand Lodge printed in booklet form.  There must be a reason why a member is not coming to Lodge, and we should care enough to find the reason, not just let him go. The key to making a new member feel a part of the Lodge is for the first-line signer to be a Shepherd for his first year in the Craft.

       Additionally, I encourage all Lodges to contact members that were dropped for “non-payment of dues” in the last ten years and see if we can bring them back in the Craft using an Amnesty Program by forgiving their back dues and just paying a Lodge’s current year’s dues.  I have also established a new team called the “Loss Prevention Team” which will assist Lodges by gathering data from past non-payment-of-dues members to see why they left the Fraternity.  They will report directly to the Deputy Grand Master.

        I am going to help you in our membership drive with an aggressive Public Relations campaign actively seeking to promote Masonry through local and national newspapers, television and video programs.  In fact, the first video was shown in the Rochester area on Time Warner Cable Television, a thirty-second video that ran for two weeks, twice a day with a net result of twenty-seven inquiries and thirteen new petitions. I have approved a second video with 633 spots placed on ten television channels in our Mid-state Region.  They began to air on June 3rd and will run through November 17th.   I will expand the video coverage throughout our entire jurisdiction.  

        One way to get Masons in the public eye is by marching in Memorial Day, Norwegian Day, Steuben, Columbus Day or other local parades.  These are nationally televised throughout the State yet our attendance at them has been low.  The George Washington re-enactment on the steps of Federal Hall is another public event, yet attendance is low.  My Brothers, I encourage your attendance at these functions to display Masonry to your communities.  Marching with our regalia is one way to be recognized.

        The Concordant Bodies have also stepped in to assist us in membership with their program titled, “Re-Member The Blue Lodge”.  They are encouraging their members to return to the Blue Lodge to help bring in New Members.  There was an article in the Spring issue of our ESM magazine about this program. They realize that only through growth in the Blue Lodges will they grow as well.

        I have tasked the Senior and Junior Grand Wardens and the Grand Treasurer to be Area Liaison Officers.  The Senior Grand Warden will be liaison for Areas Five through Ten, the Junior Grand Warden Areas Eleven through Eighteen and the Grand Treasurer Areas One through Four. They will use a reporting tool called the “Benchmark Assessment” and the DDGM's will also use this tool. I encourage all Masters to use this tool as well, to get an idea of how your Lodge is doing and what areas you could improve in to be more productive.  The Liaison Officers will report their findings to the Deputy Grand Master quarterly, and he will report to me so that everyone has an understanding of what areas need assistance. I will expect each Committee Chairman similarly to make a quarterly assessment of their progress. This is the first time one form will be used by all as part of my Accountability and Reporting Procedure. If a DDGM or a Staff Officer needs help they are to call their respective Liaison Officer in the Chain of Command.

        Another area that needs attention is Masonic Etiquette and Protocol.  Men want to join an organization that looks good, is sharp and knows what they are doing.  We have been lax in this area for a while and it gives the appearance of being sloppy.  Dress is an integral part of our image, especially in public events. The D. D. G. M is my personal representative and will be afforded the same courtesies as I would each and every time he visits a Lodge or attends a Lodge or District event, not just on his official visit.  The Grand Marshal has sent out a letter on Masonic Protocol and I expect all Brethren to read it and follow it.  The Grand Marshal will be giving instructions at the August training session and will be checking out Lodges as we go around the State.

            Our Veterans Hospital visits continue to bring joy to our Veterans, and I am looking into ways to expand our Veterans Team into new areas besides Hospital Visitations.  I believe there are other ways we can assist, help and honor our Veterans and those who are currently serving to defend this great country of ours, the USA.

         The Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Team continues to post our signs at new schools each year and help our children to understand and educate them in not using those substances.  The local Community Blood Drives have resulted in Masons donating over 25,000 pints of blood and are looking to increase that total. They provide the gift of life to those individuals in need.  The Scholarship Fund, with the backing of our Masonic Home Trustees, gave out Scholarships totaling $550,000 dollars and this will be increased this year.

        The National Masonic Foundation for Children was very successful in certifying teachers in the recognition of drug and alcohol behavioral patterns, so successful in fact, that an additional class had to be added this year. This program has helped raise the recognition of how much Masons care about our schools and our children, and will continue to train our teachers to help children on the road to a successful life.

        I have added a new program to help our children in local schools called the Beacon Project.  This program kicks off with the September, 2002, school season. This project is simply Masons volunteering their time in local community schools with anything the school might need assistance with, for example, chaperones for school trips, helping out in the cafeteria, hall monitors, clerical assistance, or working in the school library.  If a school has a volunteer program already in place, we can ask to be a part of it.  There is no cost to Lodges. It is a hands-on project that provides assistance to schools.  This is a project where wives can help as well, and I encourage that. In some cases, your wives are members of the PTA and together you could be helping your own child.

        These two programs are so important for the future of our society, and to let the Community know who Masons are and what we do for them.  This project brings us back into the education arena where Grand Master and Governor DeWitt Clinton was the founder of Public Education in New York State and in whose name we give  to a non-Mason our prestigious DeWitt Clinton Award for Community Service.

        The Lodges and Buildings Team will continue its assistance to Lodges who own buildings and show them how to obtain relief with taxes and utilities.  I believed it opened the eyes of a lot of Lodges as to the reasons they weren’t profitable.  In some cases Dues and Initiation Fees charged were too low to support the building, and I agree with those findings.  Dues and Initiation Fees have not kept up with the times. When I look at the history of Lodges, I have found that in 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s they were charging 125- to 150-dollar initiation fees, which is how much they are charging now, and that is not feasible, and has to change. I recommend that the minimum initiation fee be $250.  I urge all Lodges to realistically look at their dues structure.  Be creative, be innovative, look at classes of dues, resident, non-resident, life membership, etc. and let’s bring them up to modern day costs.  After all, it’s the Lodge’s money.

        The book just published with the history of Lodges is wonderful, but it doesn’t have all the Lodges listed.  I encourage all Lodges who haven’t sent in their history to do so.  I also encourage all Lodges to appoint a Lodge Historian to update their history to the present day and to provide a copy to our Livingston Library.   I found, when preparing notes prior to receiving honorary membership in Lodges, that most historical files stop in the late 1980’s or 1990’s.  Our Livingston Library will be pleased to take artifacts from Lodges merging or turning in their Charters. Don’t throw them in the trash.  They are part of our history and should be maintained.  Additionally, the Library will be glad to bring any artifacts to public events for display; such as,  State Fairs or Brother-Bring-a-Friend Night programs.

        Long-Range Planning Teams are to be established in each District to look ahead three, five or ten years to plan for the future of Masonry in their District.  They will then submit their recommendations to the Grand Lodge Long-Range Planning Team to gather data in planning the direction of our Craft.

         I have authorized a change in the Child Identification Program.  An additional step has been added of having the parents  (if they agree) cut a sample of their child’s hair, place it in a plastic bag, seal it and return to them for safekeeping along with the videotape.  This will provide a DNA sample for identification purposes.  The need to do this became very evident to me after the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center tragedy where identification could only be made through DNA samples.

        Our Grand Lodge Web Site now has approved guidelines for Lodges to become part of the web.  These rules must be followed or you will be dropped from the site.  I encourage all Lodges to be a part of the Grand Lodge Web Site because access by the public will be easier with only one web address so, as they enter the site, they can view listings of all Lodges within their local area.  This could help individuals looking to join our Craft to know where a Lodge is located in their area. They could then click on and call the point of contact listed.

        Additionally, my Brothers, there is another web site known as “The Global Fraternal Network”. It allows Masons from around the world to interact on a personal level.  This was the brainchild of two Past District Deputy Grand Masters of New York by the name of Richard A. Newman and Rene Van Geuns.  Their dream was to provide a place where Brothers can get together, develop closer global fraternal ties, voice their opinions, contribute ideas, foster a Masonic exchange and promote Masonic education.  I urge you to look into logging on.

        Regarding our Grand Lodge Web Site and technology, I have added a new Technology Team to our roster.  They will be re-assessing our capabilities at Grand Lodge and looking into different programs to use so that we can move forward with technology and technology information within our jurisdiction.  Our Grand Lodge Web Site will be under their direction and they will be upgrading our site to become a premier web site.

        Young Masons Team.  This is a new team consisting of members between the ages of 21-35 who will brainstorm ideas on how Masonry can be relevant to the younger generation.  This will also include ways to recruit young men into our Craft.  I want this team to have representation from the four Regions of our State, and I am still looking for additional members.  The D. D. G. M. s will give me those names at the August training session.  This, my Brothers, is very important for the future of our Fraternity and its growth.

        Another change is in our Area Town Meetings.  I have changed the name to Just Plain Talk (JPT), and there will be no committee presentations at these sessions.  My goal here is to just sit down and discuss what we can do about Masonry in your area.  I want the DDGM's  to obtain a list of the newly-raised Masons in the last three years and send a letter on my behalf inviting them to the session.  Of course everyone else is invited, but I want the new Brothers to understand that Grand Lodge welcomes their opinions.  When coming to these sessions I want you to remember seven letters: DBMP BMS which means “DON’T BRING ME PROBLEMS BRING ME SOLUTIONS”  Everyone can tell us about our problems, but rarely do they come up with solutions.  Now that has changed and I will be happy to listen to your ideas, thoughts or solutions.

        I have also developed a new seminar hosted by our Deputy Grand Master.  His seminar will target just the Masters and Wardens of the Lodges in the area he visits. It will be held in different parts of the State from where my JPT sessions are, and he will sit around a table and discuss their concerns, how their Lodges can improve and in what areas Grand Lodge can assist them.  The dates will be given out at the August training session.

        Our Ritual must be of a quality nature and will be on every Master’s trestle board.  One of the duties of a Master is to teach the Ritual or have it taught.  Even if there are no candidates, you will ensure the competence of your Officers in the Ritual work.  Not just the opening and closing, but the explanations of our degrees as well.  Our Fraternity is a teaching organization and the Ritual is part of that teaching. Our Masonic Hall and Home Trustees continue to be supportive  of our programs and assist us wherever and whenever they can.  Their continued support of our ESM magazine, Camp Turk, Scholarships and other programs has been instrumental in the success of these activities, and I thank them for that.  The beautiful refurbishment project of the nursing facility has upgraded the capabilities to provide modern-day care to our residents of the Home and future needs of the Fraternity.  The direction of nursing home care being developed utilizing a home-like environment is truly a step into the future. As we move forward the Trustees must continue to work together with Grand Lodge to look for other ways to support our entire membership through innovative measures.

        The Masonic Medical Research Laboratory is a crown jewel for Masons in New York and humanity, and I encourage them to reach out to other jurisdictions for support as they have with the Grand Lodge of Florida.  Their research benefits millions of Americans and citizens of other countries. I would like to see this Laboratory be supported on a national scale and ask them to continue to recruit other jurisdictions.  The addition of Doctor Ramon Brugada as the head of our new Molecular Genetics program along with other investigators from Baylor College of Medicine is a tremendous achievement for our Lab, and I congratulate them.  The work being done with SIDs the Long QT Syndrome and sudden cardiac deaths will hopefully result in physicians being more alert in spotting these symptoms early on and preventing a percentage of deaths related to these causes.  This information cannot only be dispersed to our membership but must be made known in our Communities, and I urge them to promote the information to the public sector.       

        Your Grand Lodge Fund continues to help and assist our Brethren and Lodges during times of financial difficulties.  We must continue to support that effort with our donations so that we will be able to provide the relief necessary during times of need.

        The Grand Lodge Officer Selection Process for the next DDGM's and Staff Officers will be revised and will be followed by all Districts.  There are some areas needing modification, and we will be looking into making revisions for the next selections in 2004.  The Deputy Grand Master will be responsible to ensure its completion and distribution in a timely manner.

        The Grand Line Selections for Elected Officers at this year’s Annual Communication was an historical event for this jurisdiction.  Candidates for each position placed flyers on chairs and had the opportunity to speak and explain their goals for our Craft in the future.  This procedure provides you the opportunity to make a selection of the person you want to represent you as a leader of our Craft without a nomination and second. The downside to the whole process was that it took too long to vote – it was cumbersome.  Some candidates had an advantage over the others.   In some cases this was the first opportunity to hear a candidate’s views.  This was the first time it was tried, and we will be making revisions to afford all candidates a level field, and each District the opportunity to hear and see the candidates for office well ahead of the Grand Lodge session.

        Our greatest challenge in the years ahead is membership. Inactivity is inexcusable, and if all of us care about this Fraternity as we profess, then we all need to work hard at moving this Craft into the next century.  We must remember that Masonry should be in our hearts.  Isn’t that where you were first prepared to be a Mason?  Our Craft has a long and proud history and was critical to the success of this great Nation.  We can and will continue that tradition with everyone’s help.  Since September 11, 2001, every person in New York City and the world turned to Patriotism, Prayer and Brotherhood.  It was relevant in the early days and is still relevant now.

        There has been a resurgence of men interested in joining our military forces and organizations such as ours. Let us not lose that opportunity.  As the one-year anniversary of September 11, 2001 comes near, let us not forget those who died in that cowardly attack.  Remember them and our men and women in our military who continue each day to protect our freedoms we hold so precious, and which allow us to live in this great Country, the United States of America.  I am thankful to be offered the opportunity to be your Grand Master and I pledge to you my support and ask that you offer yours so that together we can continue to keep our Fraternity strong and make it grow.

        I thank the Long-Range Planning and the Advisory Teams for their time and their recommendations in planning the future of our Craft.  The members of these Teams came from all parts of the State. So, in essence, what I have outlined here today in my address has come from you, my Brothers.   I will continue to listen and work with you during my term of office.

        Looking forward to seeing you on the level.  May God Bless You, God Bless this Fraternity and May God Bless the United States of America.

 

M\W\Carl J. Fitje, Grand Master of Masons in the State of New York
to the 2002-2004 District Deputies and Staff Officers, June 22, 2002.

 

 

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DDGM Second Oneida 2002-2004
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