There was a very positive report in the Chicago Post-Tribune on November 1st, written by local columnist Jerry Davich, that highlighted the Brethren of Indiana's Glen Park Lodge 732 and its Master, Izzy De Jesus. Unlike so many typical drive-by treatments of the fraternity by so many reporters who have no idea who and what we are, Davich's was a refreshing, first-person account that demonstrates what Freemasons do, and how and why we are still important to our local communities.
It even made the front page.
What I love about this article is that it illustrates so much of what so many of us have experienced in our own lodges and communities. Note especially the reference to Masonic funerals: this was the very reason I joined the fraternity twenty-one years ago, because of my father-in-law's service. And the lodge's involvement in their town is exemplary.
From 'Psssttt... Masonic Freemasons’ secrets are not as mysterious as you think':
“Cultural folklore and ancient organizations continue to be intrinsically woven into our modern day society. Look no further than the Freemasons, whose enigmatic history dates back to the Middle Ages with mysterious rituals, language, symbols and handshakes.
The well-known yet largely misunderstood fraternity still conjures images of a secret society from centuries ago. What do its members do at meetings? What kind of rituals are performed behind closed doors? Why are antiquated titles still used for leaders?
Outsiders have no clue. Ignorance breeds mystery. Secrets reproduce secrets. Fear creates rumors. This template of shadowy secrecy goes back eons about humankind.
“The brothers of Glen Park Lodge No. 732 have a message for the world – Freemasonry is not a secret society,” said Izzy De Jesus, the lodge’s Worshipful Master. “It is a fraternity of men who take good men and make them better.” Not as puzzling as you thought, huh?
“It is a philanthropy group always looking for opportunities to make a difference in their communities, their countries, and the world,” De Jesus, of Valparaiso, told me...”
“I already had knowledge of Freemasonry since I had some family members involved in the fraternity,” [says Past Master and Secretary Jeff Robb]. “In addition to this, I was well aware that many founding fathers of this great country belonged to this wonderful fraternity, which always piqued my interests further.”
It wasn’t until his uncle’s funeral in 2011 when Robb took a deep dive into the fraternity. He witnessed more than 100 men from all walks of life, donned in white gloves and aprons, honoring his uncle’s life in a Masonic memorial service. Shortly afterward, he petitioned Glen Park Lodge No. 732 - his uncle’s lodge. He was accepted in 2012...”(So many lodges give little thought to readying and qualifying their members and officers for performing the funeral ritual well, which can happen at any time with no warning or preparation. Yet, the ability to perform the funeral service flawlessly, hopefully from memory, but certainly with emotion and understanding and confidence in front of a grieving room full of strangers is every bit as important as our degree rituals themselves - maybe even more so. So many times in the 21st century it is the first time the majority of the non-Masons in the room have ever encountered the Freemasons in their lives. The funeral ritual is almost like a pre-initiation introduction to all of the mourners and family in that room. And they will remember the service you and your members conducted quite possibly for the rest of their lives.
“I have met some the nicest people who I can call my brothers since having joined freemasonry,” Robb said. “I know I could call on one of my brothers if I ever needed assistance and they would not hesitate to lend a helping hand.”He cites multiple other reasons for being involved in “the fraternity.”
Fellowship, spending quality time with quality people. Appreciation for its history and mysteries, allowed to participate in the same ceremonies of our nation’s Founding Fathers. And philanthropy, participating in community events to leave the world a better place...
As each decade passes in my life, I assume that these type of organizations with ancient histories and outdated titles will fade away, even more so in the 21st century. Yet they remain in existence, obviously serving a need of tribalism in our ever-progressive march toward modernity. This convergence presents what I see as an intriguing juxtaposition of old beliefs and contemporary devices.
“For instance, in the photo [above] accompanying this column, De Jesus proudly poses with his Freemasons ring, rephrasing a ceremonial refrain, “One ring to serve them all.”
“[T]he Glen Park Lodge partnered with Thrivent Financial of Valparaiso to help with a Habitat for Humanity project in Portage. The lodge donated the labor of nine of its members, all skilled tradesmen in the fields of carpentry, electrical, and plumbing. Lodge members include Allen Migliorini, Joe Sheets and Tim Williams. [photo]Every community, large or small, has an opportunity for your lodge to step up to the plate and make a difference. Back in the days when lodges had larger charity funds, more members, and men in their ranks who were more civically active and engaged on their own, it may have been that your lodge expressed its involvement locally by raising money and writing checks. Or maybe 'everybody' knew that the most important, influential or most visible guys in town making a difference were Masons. That's partially how our reputation was established from the 1840s all the way up until maybe 30 years ago. But we stopped being of interest to so many of those influential men today and we can't rely on the glowing reputation of high-profile members to carry the weight for us any more.
“I come from a family that is always looking for ways to help others,” De Jesus said. “I wanted to bring that sense of service to the forefront during my term as Worshipful Master of this amazing Lodge.”
The fraternity’s next project will be Nov. 9, offering free first responder classes to nonprofit organizations in Valparaiso, where the lodge is now located...”
The first step to reintroducing Freemasonry to our communities now is active participation outside of the lodge room. The brethren at Glen Park are doing just that. It takes work and planning and, hardest of all to achieve, active participation coupled with ongoing enthusiasm. The great news is that people in your community take notice when the Masons step up and get involved - just like this newspaper columnist did.
““Not just a man, a Mason,” is the organization’s historic motto.
“Not just a mystery, a Mason,” should be our modernized interpretation of this ancient fraternity.”Read the whole article HERE.
For more about other ways to get your lodge back in to your community's habit and consciousness again, see my post from August: