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A heritage of trust

Ennis Masonic Lodge still going strong after 130 years
Masonic traditions, perhaps shrouded in mystery to some, have held the fraternal organization together throughout history and keep present day lodges holding on to their proud heritage. Ancient meanings and translations hold a special place in the hearts of the men who carry on the ways of the past to benefit the future.
“Our mission is to take a good man and make him an even better man by educating him and giving him opportunities he might not otherwise have,” said Tom Little, Ennis Masonic Lodge #369 Chaplain. “Our role is to educate members in the ways of the fraternity, teach them organizational and public speaking skills, give them responsibilities within the lodge and have them participate in charitable projects, all in the hopes of making these members better rounded people.”
Becoming a mason depends on a fundamental belief in a supreme being, Little explained. While not teaching any one religion and accepting members from all denominations, Masons strive to uphold the faith-based core of their organization.
“We do not require members to be one religion or another but we still open and close our meetings with prayer,” Little said. “We try to better ourselves by our involvement with the organization and we feel having a faith based program is an important step to achieving that.”
Another aspect of the organization that may be surprising is that they don’t solicit members. People wishing to join a Masonic lodge make inquiries before proceeding with the petition process, not unlike a job interview.
“We have a panel of three members who meet with the potential candidate at his home to ask questions in hopes of finding out more about his character,” he said. “Our intent is not to judge but to make sure that we start the process with a candidate we feel is appropriate for the organization.”
Once the panel has made their report to the general membership, a vote is taken and the inclusion of potential candidates is decided. Little admitted not everyone makes it past the vote.
“In the 33 years I have been involved. I have only seen one or two people not accepted,” he said. “It is a rare thing but it can happen.”
An underlying factor of a lodge’s endurance, besides adherance to tradition, is the trust placed upon each member. The group has faith in the judgment of the panel when voting to accept a new member, and each member is trusted to uphold traditions while keeping rituals a secret.
“There is nothing behind why we keep things private except that is has been that way forever,” Little said. “In old times, which is called ‘operative masonry,’ men who wanted to learn a trade became apprentices of others and then took their trade to different parts of the world. In order for the boss at the job site to know for sure if the employee knew how to do the work, he would give a secret hand signal. It was a two way street because the boss knew the employee was truthful and the employee knew the boss would treat him fairly.”
The scrutiny the Masonic organization has received in the past is a bone of contention with Little, who believes the controversy is based on misinformation. References made to the dark history behind the group and its practices in recent Hollywood movies such as “National Treasure” and “The Da Vinci Code” are nothing more than fabrications used to further movie plots, he maintained.
“I certainly do wish there was some sort of hidden Mason treasure because I’d be going to look for it to get my share,” he said with a laugh. “I think people who criticize the organization don’t really understand it. We are not secretive but we are private, which I think sets us apart from other organizations and make us unique.”
Within each lodge membership are 10 officer positions, beginning with the role of worshipful master, or leader of the lodge, a one year term of office. Members are aware the term “worshipful master” has caused speculation but they have a solid reason for using the title.
“Our titles and roles are based on old English terminology because masonry originated in ancient England,” Little said. “It is the same as having a club president or vice president, we just stick to historical terms because tradition is such an important part of what we do.”
Other titled positions within each lodge are: junior and senior warden, secretary, treasurer, junior and senior deacon, chaplain and junior and senior stewards.
In the end, Little hopes what people think of when they hear of a Masonic group is the charitable works it undertakes locally and nationally.
“We have many charities that we contribute to within the community,” he said. “The Lamar Scholarships we give to high school students is one of those and nationally the Scottish Rite Hospital is one of our major recipients. We have charities associated with each lodge so many organizations receive benefit from our contributions. We have been told that with all the affiliations we have, we donate a million dollars a day to charities all over the world.”
With a rich heritage in the Bluebonnet City, members of Ennis Masonic Lodge #369, established in 1873 (a year after this city’s founding), have no fear of becoming extinct.
They quietly, unassumingly go about their business for the benefit of the charities they serve and with the traditions they respect in tact. Their journey of future self-betterment continues as they hold fast to the past.
Candie Beck-Adams is community editor for the Ennis Daily News. She can be reached at candie@ennisdailynews.com

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Posted by on Apr 30 2008. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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