Vol. XXXII No. 3 — March 1954

Masonic Samaritans

Abstracted from Report of Executive Commission of The Masonic Service Association, February 25, 1954.

Everyone knows and loves the story of “the good Samaritan,” the tale of the man who “fell among thieves,” and was refused help by a priest and by a Levite. Then:

But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. . . . And went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. . . .

The soldier brave in uniform about to leave his country to see service abroad is an enthusiasm-creating sight: bands play, people cheer, parents weep as much with pride as with grief.

But the same brave soldier in a dressing gown, behind hospital walls, health gone, perhaps wounded, legless, armless, sometimes faceless and, worst of all, at times all but mindless — he gets no cheers, no bands play for him, he is literally “out of sight, out of mind.”

The “priests and the Levites” pass him by.

But Freemasonry has not passed him by. The gentle Craft has taken the lesson of the Good Samaritan to heart and has “brought him to an inn and taken care of him.”

Of the many organizations that have not forgotten the otherwise forgotten defender of his country, none offers the personal service that Masonry gives to the man in the hospital. This service is unique, and the high regard in which Masonic Hospital Visitors are held by Veterans Administration Hospital authorities is caused by that uniqueness. It is for what Freemasonry does for the wounded and the ill in personal service, that thousands of letters come to Headquarters from grateful — sometimes hysterically grateful patients and their loved ones.

From time to time in The Short Talk Bulletin Supplements this personal service has been described. But perhaps a word or two in addition maybe welcomed by those who are not informed.

Government Hospitals are finely equipped for medical, surgical and other remedial services. The best of equipment, the most highly trained medical men are at the service of the defenders of our country.

But no hospital is equipped to do the hundred and one things that are as essential for comfort and peace of mind as medicine and surgery are to health and body.

Masonic Service Association Hospital Visitors have endless tasks: they write letters for patients; they have patients’ glasses repaired; engage accommodations for visiting parents and other relatives; secure legal counsel for those who need it; give Masonic advice to those who require help in reinstatement; buy gifts to be sent to friends of patients; do patients’ shopping for them; arrange for outings for the ambulant; aid in entertainment; give small gifts of cigarettes, matches, combs, toothbrushes, etc.; secure books for those who wish to study; they officiate at weddings, have staged funerals and christening events; inform home lodges of ill or injured brethren; act as agents for lodges that wish to send gifts to their hospitalized brethren; small loans are made when needed; telephone calls paid for when a patient must make a long distance call and has no money; Masons in a hospital are made known to each other. The list might be extended indefinitely. Let it be summarized that the personal service rendered all patients in V.A. and other hospitals served by Masonry consists in doing for all patients what those patients own blood brothers, parents, wives, would do for them could they be on duty in these hospitals twenty-four hours a day.

It hardly needs to be said that these services are rendered patients from all grand lodges and to all patients from all states, whether Masons or not.

For several years past the Annual Meeting of this Association has asked grand lodges for $225,000 for a year’s hospital work. That goal has not been reached; as a result, The Masonic Service Association has not been able to accede to all requests to establish new hospital centers. Only one new station was opened during the year, at Marion, Illinois. The total received in 1953 was $195,716.89. In 1952 it was $199,214.33.

Authorities in some grand lodges are doubtful that, if they institute a request for greater funds, their brethren will respond.

This is directly refuted by plain evidence that brethren of the Ancient Craft are the same in heart, regardless of their geographical location. Grand lodge after grand lodge has faced the problem, staged a campaign, and triumphantly come through, almost invariably with a larger sum than it was believed could be raised.

Headquarters has on file all the plans of all the campaigns to raise hospital funds that grand lodges have devised and used. They are at the service of any grand master who will resolve his doubts and ask his brethren for the small sum necessary to provide one or more hospital stations within his own jurisdiction.

What one grand lodge has successfully accomplished, another may!

It requires only the enthusiasm of leadership and the belief in the generosity of the individual craftsmen who always respond generously when shown the bitter need.

During 1953 Masons’ sons and brothers were served in one way or another by more than one and one half million contacts, in eighty Government Hospitals. Of these almost 85,000 were new contacts. Brethren in every state in the Union and twelve foreign countries were served.

Masons According to States and Territories Visited by Masonic Service Association Hospital Visitors in 1953

Alabama 1,881
Alaska 6
Arizona 1,244
Arkansas 1,235
California 587
Colorado 1,112
Connecticut 1,830
Delaware 836
Dist. of Col 3,189
Florida 2,433
Georgia 4,584
Guam 1
Idaho 138
Illinois 21,338
Indiana 5,876
Iowa 11,858
Nebraska 1,616
Nevada 14
New Hampshire 1,816
New Jersey 2,863
New Mexico 1,027
New York 4,139
North Carolina 6,112
North Dakota 921
Ohio 1,964
Oklahoma 1,074
Oregon 77
Pennsylvania 2,616
Puerto Rico 4
Rhode Island 2,466
South Carolina 3,173
South Dakota 2,583
Tennessee 1,116
Texas 1,551
Utah 428
Vermont 555
Virginia 10,990
Wyoming 20,110

Foreign Countries

Canal Zone 15
Canada 42
England 1
Germany 1
Japan 25
Korea 9
New Brunswick 4
Philippines 187
Scotland 35

The C.P.A. audit given to the delegates at the Annual Meeting of The Masonic Service Association, February 25, 1954, detailed receipts, expenditures, bank accounts. Insurance policies, financial records and books of the Association are kept in fireproof safes. To keep up with the advancing costs of living, insurance protection on Hospital Visitor’s cars has been increased. Money is handled by the heavily-bonded executive secretary and a competent bookkeeping department. Hospital Visitors’ expenses are reported and audited every two weeks and a check drawn to build each visitor’s fund to its original $100.00. Complete insurance covers all contingencies; group insurance for personnel continues to prove its value. Contributions are listed in the C.P.A. report in which the Executive Commission expressed its appreciation of the checks sent by the A.A.S.R. (Northern Jurisdiction) and the Shrine, large bodies of brethren that, as bodies, are not members of the Association.

Published every month except July and August (when most Masonic activities cease because of warm weather), the supplement to this Short Talk Bulletin continues to carry an illustrated monthly story of people and events in the Hospital Visitation world.

An increasing number of masters write for hundreds of copies of one or more of these to send to their members when making an appeal for aid to the hospital program.

This publication is not only important in keeping before lodges and Masons the work of the Association in hospitals as it progresses, but is also a historical record of vital importance.

As per orders of the Executive Commission, an “Award of Merit,” in the form of an illuminated and engrossed certificate was prepared and presented to Director of Welfare John D. Cunningham, June 22, 1953, on this completion of ten years of devoted and successful service. From June 22, 1943 until its close at the end of the war, he conducted the Masonic Center Program. For the implementation of its successor, the Hospital Visitation Program, Freemasonry’s “help, aid and assistance” to the wounded and the ill, he is wholly responsible.

To Hospital Visitors in the field who completed ten years of service, a suitably engrossed certificate was sent, well framed, and signed by both Director of Welfare John D. Cunningham and Executive Secretary Claudy.

A similarly-worded certificate was sent to the nearest surviving relatives of those of our Field Force who died in our service. All these have been gratefully acknowledged, not only by those who received them from us, but by the lodges of the deceased brethren, to which, in most cases, the surviving relatives gave these evidences of the devoted Masonic service of those named in these awards.

The Veterans Administration Voluntary Services Committee, commonly abbreviated V.A.V.S., is the coordinator of all voluntary work in government hospitals.

The Masonic Service Association has played, and is now playing, an important part in this committee. Director of Welfare John D. Cunningham is chairman of the planning subcommittee of the V.A.V.S., charged with arranging time and places of the annual meeting and arranging and conducting its program. He is also a member of the committee an planning for patients following discharge.

Constantly during the year he is in consultation with and helping Veterans Administration headquarters in Washington. This association is not only of great value to him, in directing our service, but to the Veterans Administration because of his wide experience and devoted cooperation, and also to Masonry at large.

Through these offices repeated certifications have been made, resulting in appointments of representatives of grand lodges and other bodies to their own local committees, thus affording them official standing and governmental recognition.

Freemasonry is a recognized factor in Veterans Administration circles, a valued adjunct to its labors, and has become so because of the close Raison established and continued by the Welfare Department of the M.S.A. with the Veterans Administration high authorities.

In its Report to the Annual Meeting of the M.S.A., the Executive Commission noted with pleasure that, at the raising to the Sublime Degree of Worshipful Brother Cunningham’s son, at McCook, Nebraska, November 3, 1953, there were present in honor of Worshipful Brother Cunningham, Grand Master Fay Smith of Nebraska and the Grand Secretary Carl Greisen; the grand senior warden of Kansas, Karl L. Baumgartner (Cunningham is a Kansas Mason); the grand secretary of North Dakota, R.G.M. Harold S. Pond; the grand chaplain of Montana, Rev. George S. Sloan; Executive Commissioner and P.G.M. of Wyoming, C. N. Bell; Kenneth N. Hess, Hospital Visitor at Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Brother James H. Abels, Manager of the VA. Center at Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Executive Secretary and P.G.M. of the District of Columbia, Carl H. Claudy, all of whom journeyed to McCook in gracious fraternal tribute of admiration and respect for our Director of Welfare in his hour of Masonic happiness.

Masons are made, live, die; Masonry continues. Hospital Visitors are engaged, trained, labor, are eventually replaced; hospitals and the needs of veterans continue.

Hence the hospital work program, giving Freemasonry’s gentle aid to the defenders of our country, can be likened to that famous saying “The more it changes, the more it is the same thing.”

And because it is the same thing, these accounts of it must, even if in different words, be “the same thing.”

One “same thing” is the too common misunderstanding by some brethren as to who pays for the hospital service. Let it be chronicled once more: Dues to the Masonic Service Association do not support hospital service; they pay for headquarters, salaries, rent, educational material, Bulletins, Digests, ONLY.

Hospital expenses are born by grand lodges, which either contribute from existing funds, assess their members, or ask for voluntary contributions.

Any grand lodge can raise any sum it believes fair and adequate for this work. This is not a mere assertion — it has been proved, time and again. It requires only two things; by a grand master and his staff a belief in the generosity of his brethren; wise use of the right plan.

Headquarters has the plan. Headquarters KNOWS that brethren are generous. But Headquarters is a servant of the fraternity, an agent to do the will of grand lodges. The M.S.A. cannot initiate fund-raising plans — that can only be done by Masonic authorities in any grand lodge. All it can do is offer the proved successful plans that other grand lodges have used.

Adequate continuation of hospital service is in the hands and hearts of grand masters and the brethren of grand lodges.

The Psalmist sang “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day.” (Psalms 9:15)

The Great Architect works through his children. If those who have borne the heat and burden of battle, of wounds, of illness, of maimings are no longer to be afraid of the terror by night nor the arrow that flieth by day, it will be because Masons who are dedicated to the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God, forget not the ending of the Good Samaritan story:

“And on the morrow, when he departed, he took out two pence and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him, and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.” (Luke 10:35)

The Masonic Service Association of North America