Most Worshipful Frank M. Condello II recently visited the Aloha Shriner’s Aiea Shrine Club. Below is the speech which he delivered during his visitation.
“Aloha everyone! Thank you for inviting me to speak tonight to the Aiea Shrine Club. This is actually my first time attending this meeting. I also want to thank Illustrious Manny Quodala for presenting me with this wonderful Grand Master’s Fez at the last quarterly Shrine meeting. What a wonderful thing for a Brother to do. Although I have not been that active with the Shrine in recent years, I am still a proud member. The Shriners Hospitals are probably the main reason why a Mason would join the Shrine. Who else has a network of over 20 hospitals that provide free medical care to children from all over the world. How many thousands of children has the Shriners Hospital in Honolulu helped over the years? This is truly one of the best philanthropies that Masonry could have. Unfortunately, many in the public don’t make the connection that Shriners are also Freemasons. To be a Shriner, you must first be a Mason. We should do a better job of educating the community about this connection.
Yes, I am the Grand Master of Hawaii for the Freemasons, which is the governing body that manages the lodges within the jurisdiction of Hawaii. I was elected at the Grand Lodge Annual Communication in April to serve a one year term. Hawaii currently has 11 lodges and about 1850 members. Surprisingly, we are not the smallest jurisdiction in the U.S. Alaska has about 1700 members. This is something that we should be very proud of. Our numbers have been slowly growing over the past 5 years or so. This says a lot about the young men who are joining our fraternity every year. Many of our applicants are in their 20’s and 30’s. It is really a wonderful feeling to know that our fraternity is not slowly dying, but is actually slowly growing. When I became a member 20 years ago, most of the members were over 60. There were only a few brethren that I would consider young at the time. Somehow, the few young men in the lodge inspired others to join and the older brethren were supportive of this. The one thing I have noticed though is that we now have the opposite problem. The older brethren are staying away and the younger Masons don’t have the generational inspiration that was there before. Are the older members feeling left out? Do they think they have nothing more to offer the lodge? For whatever reason, I would like to see the generations of Masons working together and contributing to the lodges. I also notice that many brethren who are active in the concordant bodies such as Scottish Rite, York Rite, and the Shrine very rarely show up to a Blue Lodge meeting. Ask yourself, when was the last time you attended a Blue Lodge meeting? When did you last assist with a degree in lodge, or assist a candidate with his proficiency examination. You should all realize that the health and future of our fraternity will rely on the health of our lodges. Being a Shriner may be what you are most passionate about, but if the Blue Lodges die out, so will the Shriners. For the time being, there is still a symbiotic relationship between the two. The concordant bodies such as the Shriners exist with the blessing of the Grand Lodge of Hawaii.
You may have heard that my motto this year is Serve With Honor. I did not create a motto just for the sake of doing so. This statement truly means something to me, and it should mean something to you too as a Mason. Serving with honor should pervade all aspects of our lives. From being a good and honorable husband, father, child, co-worker, lodge member, and citizen of this great country of ours. We as Masons should hold ourselves to a higher standard. We quietly lead by example and serve with humility. We are proud of our traditions and the rich lessons our rituals teach. They are not just words that are said so you can have a dues card in your pocket. Being a member of our ancient and honorable fraternity is part of our very being. As honorable Shriners you should make an effort to support your Blue lodges. They need you!
As Grand Master of Hawaii, I also represent all of you with jurisdictions around the world. I have had the pleasure and honor to represent this jurisdiction at the Annual Communications in the Philippines, Washington State, Oregon, and California. We do not attend these events just to schmooze and show off as some may think. The connections we make are invaluable to a smaller jurisdiction such as ours. Because we are out in the middle of the Pacific, it is much more difficult to visit lodges in other states. For the past 3 years, I have also attended the Conference of Grand Masters of North America. This is a large convention where the elected grand lines from all grand lodges in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico meet in one location each year. As we have progressed in the grand line, we have gotten to know our counterparts around North America. We have especially built a close bond with our West Coast counterparts. We do not have to reinvent the wheel but can ask questions of our counterparts and have great conversations about how to better motivate our brethren and provide inspiration to them. At the recent Annual Communication in California, the Grand Lodge of California announced the beginning of a special Masonic educational program they have created. Because of the money and manpower they have, they created an online Masonic educational program for all new candidates. New candidates receive a log in once they register and make their initial payment of approximately $75. They are able to access E-books, videos, papers and other educational materials such as tests and games. Their lodge Master and educational officers can check their progress as they move up to Master Mason. With the relationship I have created with the Grand Lodge of California, I was able to get a commitment from them that they will allow us to access this educational program for our much smaller jurisdiction. Since our ritual is based on California ritual, it should be very compatible. Look for this to come to your lodges in the coming months.
Another thing I have noticed from my travels is that our jurisdiction holds our brethren and officers to a high standard when it comes to our ritual. Most of you know that to become an elected officer you must qualify in lectures and conferral of degrees in order to advance. By the time you are the Worshipful Master of a lodge, you can confer all three degrees and the lectures from memory. Other than California, Hawaii is one of only a few jurisdictions that is that strict. You might be surprised to know that many jurisdictions don’t even require their candidates to give a proficiency examination any longer. Many Masters only need to be able to open and run a stated business meeting but are not required to memorize any conferral or lecture work. So if someone questions a short form proficiency or a Grand Master’s Fast Class, please know that we already have a very high standard for our officers and brethren and are by no means watering down the traditions and ritual of our fraternity.
A significant change I have made this year was to require that all new applicants to lodges go through a criminal background check. Our Hawaii Masonic code prevents a convicted felon or person convicted of a crime of moral terpitude from becoming a member. For all of these years, we have just taken their word for it. Unfortunately, on the mainland this has had very negative results and the majority of Grand Lodges now require background checks. I have learned of lodges on the mainland that allowed convicted pedophiles to join without their knowledge, and these sex offenders later reoffended. One lodge in Chicago was about to install a brother to Master when it was discovered that he was a registered sex offender. A lodge in Washington State initiated a fugitive wanted for Murder. These incidents could have been avoided with a simple criminal background check. Things move as quickly as molasses sometimes in Masonry, but I am proud that I was able to fast track this for our jurisdiction by making a Grand Master’s decision. I am hopeful that I will be able to codify this as part of the permanent Hawaii Masonic Code at next years Annual Communication.
I have been working hard to create a Constitutional Observance Program for our jurisdiction at the Grand Lodge level. You may remember the Boston Tea Parties that Honolulu Lodge used to perform at the Falls of Clyde years ago. I am currently in negotiations with Bishop Museum to have a co sponsored event on the Bishop Museum grounds. Due to the logistics of creating such an event, I have not been able to nail down an exact date. I will keep you all posted by ROLLS, but I foresee this to be an annual event at Biship Museum that will highlight Masonry’s contribution to the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and the Consitutition. How many of you know for instance that George Washington was Grand Master of Virginia, Benjamin Franklin was Grand Master of Pennsylvania, Paul Revere was Grand Master of Massachusetts? Many other patriots and signers of the Declaration of Independence were also Freemasons. We have wonderful colonial costumes and props that I will purchase from Brother George Theofanis that can be used annually for this event. This will put Masonry in the public eye and educate the community at the same time as to what Masonry has done for the community and our society as a whole. Please support me on this great future event.
We will be honoring King David Kalakaua’s birthday on November 15th and 16th. The first event will be at the Kalakaua statue in Waikiki on the 15th. Masons are encouraged to attend and wear their Masonic regalia. On the 16th, there will be an event at the Iolani Palace and I have been asked to speak there as well. I plan to highlight the Masonic history of King Kalakaua. Some of you may not know that the Iolani Palace now has a Masonic display in the Palace that highlights Masonic regalia of King Kalakaua and King Kamehameha IV. I have to thank Lode Le Progres for allowing these to be on loan indefinitely to the Palace. It is a wonderful way for all visitors to learn of the Masonic connection to the royalty of Hawaii. The more we educate the community about our rich history and contributions the more we will have the respect of the community with less misunderstandings and misconceptions. There will always be those conspiracy theorists and religious fanatics that will think we are some kind of Satanic or world domination organization. We will never be able to convince these types, but I do believe we can show others that we are a very honorable and contributing member of our society that has quietly made a difference for hundreds of years.
So now you know a little bit more about your Grand Lodge and what a Grand Master does. In a way, we are the shepherd of the fraternity during our tenure and the lead cheer leader. We do not do what we do for the glory, at least I know that myself and the current grand line does not. There is just too much blood, sweat and tears for that to be a practical reason. By the time we become Grand Master, we have invested thousands of our own dollars and countless hours to this fraternity. We do what we do because we love this fraternity to our very core. It represents who we are as men and what we strive to be. You cannot always sit on the side lines if you want change to occur and want something to thrive. That is why you have passionate grand lodge officers and that is why I eventually became your Grand Master.
We as a fraternity can only accomplish great things if we believe in our common goal and believe in each other. Too often, brethren within our fraternity give in to temptation and begin to bicker, fight and pit brother against brother. I cannot think of a more dishonorable act. We cannot tolerate such behavior. Remember my simple motto of “Serve With Honor.” Everything that you do as a man and as a Mason needs to be tested with that motto. If it doesn’t meet that standard, then it should not be done. Plain and simple. Remember your oaths and obligations and allow them to be a permanent part of your being. If that is done we will surely thrive and survive for many years to come. My greatest pleasure would be to see my 13 year old son one day become a Freemason. I know that we can contribute to society in a positive way for the future generations. We all make a difference, no matter how small if may seem to others. Together we are strong. Divided we are insignificant.
Mahalo nui loa for allowing me to speak to you this evening. I hope you have found some inspiration in what I have said tonight. May the Great Architect of the Universe bless all of you.”