Freemasonry Around the World: Newfoundland

    An Oasis of Kindness

    Not long ago, I was privileged to see the Broadway musical “Come From Away”. Set in the week following the September 11 attacks, “Come From Away” tells the story of what happened when 38 planes carrying some 7000 passengers were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada – a town with a population of 9600.  As I watched the show unfold I could only think that in the wake of something horrible, something amazingly human happened.

    I am privileged, with permission, to share this firsthand account from my Brother RW Mac Moss, a member of Airways Lodge #26 under the Grand Lodge of Newfoundland & Labrador. ~MW Jim Mendoza


    Gander Freemasons Hall is the meeting hall and club rooms for the Masonic Fraternity in Gander & area. The building was erected in 1956 and has seen several expansions and modernizations to keep it up to date. The top floor or Blue Room is the meeting space for Gander Lodge # 16; Airways Lodge # 26; Unity Lodge # 32; Arklie Chapter # 3 Royal Arch Masons; Central Council, Royal & Select Masters; Crossroads Preceptory and the Gander Shrine Club. The downstairs space is called The Square & Compass Club. It has a small private bar, a functional commercial kitchen, and table seating for approximately 120 dinner guests. All of the named organizations begin their meetings in September following a two month summer break.

    For many years, a small group of Masons would meet at the Hall around 4:00 pm and have a, (sometimes) quiet game of cards. On September 11, 2001, the usual group was beginning to gather, but the main topic today wasn’t cards or the weather. Everyone was aware of the NYC 9/11 incident and everyone was aware that Gander International Airport was receiving a lot of planes. Shortly after 4:00 pm the phone at the Clubrooms rang. It was the Gander Emergency Operations Centre inquiring if the Club would accept up to 100 passengers from TWA Flight 819. Don Leyte was the Building Manager for the Gander Masonic Hall but he had to get clearance from the President of the Gander Masonic Hall Company and the Masters of both Gander & Airways Lodges.  (Bros. Fred Moffitt* & Terry Hollett). This clearance was quickly obtained and Don called the EOC and told them they were beginning to prepare the building for Passenger occupancy.

    Calls quickly went out to Lodge Members and their friends to bring in blankets, bedding and food! The Square & Compass Club has a standing credit account at Gander Co-op Store and several members including Gander Masonic Hall President, Hayward Clarke, were delegated to go to the Co-op and get enough food to get them through the next 24 hours. The volunteers worked through the evening and early morning, cleaning and clearing the meeting room and club room, making sure they would be ready for their guests.

    The “Blue Room” where Masonic Meetings were held, has a beautiful Blue wool carpet adorned with Square & Compass symbols. Don was told that they would be receiving cots for the Passengers, so it was decided to cover the carpet with plastic to keep it from getting dirty. However the cots didn’t arrive until the afternoon of September 12 but the 100 guests slept in relative comfort their first night on that magnificent carpet.

    The Square & Compass Club was uniquely qualified to feed the Passengers from the TWA Flight. Regular Masonic social functions are held at the clubrooms for Christmas, Valentines or Installation banquets where Lodge volunteer cooks regularly prepare and serve food for up to 120 Masons & their Ladies.

    Around 3:00 am on September 12, the first busses arrived bringing the travel weary, emotionally distraught, passengers from TWA Flight 819. As with all host locations, the Passengers crowded around the single television, and tried to absorb the images of destruction that led them to this tiny town in Newfoundland & Labrador. Hayward Clarke recalls periods of deathly quiet followed by exclamations of profound grief and shock as the passengers saw the planes impact the Twin Towers. The Masons and their Ladies wept with the passengers as they jointly felt the loss inflicted on America.

    Eventually the Guests were led upstairs to the Blue Room where Brethren of both Lodges and their Ladies issued them their blankets and pillows and urged them to settle down as best they could and try to get some rest. The only cautions issued to the guests were, “No food or drink in the sleeping area.” (That was done to protect the carpet!), and “Please keep talking to a whisper.” The carpeted area was approximately 50ft X 30 ft. Each guest had 15 square feet, a space about 2.5 ft. X 6.5 ft. to lay out their bedding. The expression sleeping ‘head & toe’ took on a whole new meaning.

    Breakfast the next morning was as good as you would get at a quality hotel. A variety of cereals, fruits & juices, eggs any way you liked them,  a choice of bacon, ham or bologna and white & whole wheat toast, washed down with brewed coffee and orange pekoe tea. The Passengers loved it!

    The lunch meal came from soups, sandwiches, & casseroles donated by members and friends of the Masonic community. Later that afternoon, the S&C Club was informed that food was now available at the Community Centre Ice Arena and the coordination of food acquisition, storage and delivery was being done by the Salvation Army.

    As was the case with many Host sites, some of the more elderly passengers were taken into homes of Lodge members, to give them a more comfortable bed. Over the course of the 4 days, all of the passengers were taken home by volunteers for showers.

    The building had only one telephone and that created some stress among the Passengers as it was difficult to restrict the length of the calls once a passenger had made connection to a loved one. The phone was in use all night and well into the next day at no charge to the guests. Herb Morgan, a Mason and a volunteer at the S & C Club was returning to the Lodge following a noon food run when he noticed a young couple sitting on the grass outside the building. The young lady was crying her eyes out and the young man could not console her. Herb went over to the couple to see if he could help in any way. The young lady was distraught because she had not been able to contact her family and knew they must be very worried about her. As Herb was driving back to the Lodge, he had noticed that NewTel  (the phone company), had set up banks of telephones on tables on their property only300 metres from the Lodge building. These phones were available to passengers for free! As it was a beautiful day, Herb offered to walk the couple over to the telephones, making sure they could find their way back to the Lodge.

    Every evening someone would show up with a guitar and entertain the passengers.

    Some of the volunteers at the Freemasons Hall were Don Leyte, Cyril Edison*, Jack Granville, Wayne Wareham, Fred Moffitt*, Gerry Mercer*, Aubrey Cooper, Mark LeGrow*, Gerry Kean, Don Milley*, Herb Morgan, Wilson Hoffe, Joe Dunphy and Gander Masonic Hall President, Hayward Clarke. (* Deceased)

    At the time there was a Masonic Ladies Auxiliary and these Ladies provided great service to the Passengers as well.

    Note:  Many of the Masons were involved with serving passengers at other host locations in Gander. If the Mason was a teacher, he was most likely involved in serving passenger needs at his school. All Gander Churches had passengers so many of the Masons were involved in serving the needs of passengers through their church. Personally, I was a member of Airways Lodge # 26 but also the Principal of the Gander Campus of the College of the North Atlantic, a post-secondary training college. We had 442 passengers from Air France Flight 004 (We had the two Kevins from the “Come From Away” musical.) and 172 passengers from Lufthansa Flight 416. (Mac Moss)

    On 9/11/2001 Gander received 38 aircraft. 2 US military aircraft, the crews and passengers of which were cared for by the 9 Wing Royal Canadian Air Force Base in Gander. The remaining 36 aircraft were all wide body jumbo jets with passenger loads of 85 to 360 passengers. In all of these aircraft there were approximately 6700 passengers and flight crew. The Flight crews were given hotel rooms as they were required to have mandatory rest and would be fresh to fly when the planes were called to depart. All the passengers were sheltered by Lodges, churches, Lions Clubs, Kinsmen Clubs, Elks Clubs, fire halls, Canadian Legion Clubs and schools. Their bedding was as rough as a single sheet on a tile floor, to a wooden pew in a church, to a canvas cot, to luxurious, English wool, Masonic Carpet, to a comfortable bed in a private citizens home. All of the food and accommodations were provided free to the Passengers!

    Passenger Comments:

    “Stranded in Gander, TWA flight 819, was given a gift, a lesson in humanity, kindness, and hospitality during our short stay. With all the madness in the world, to fall into a community of such care. The world could take lesson from you folks!! Thanks Gander, Masonic lodge, Jerry, Mona, Ness, Uncle Bob, we are all your family now. We will take this spirit you showed us and move it on to others whenever we get the chance. This will be our way to show our appreciation for your kindness. Kkeep that spirit moving!”    ~ Denis & Shirley Spanek

    “To the people of Gander and especially the wonderful men and women at the Masonic Lodge: Words can never express our gratitude for your caring giving and tireless effort you gave the passengers of TWA flight 819. Though difficult, you gave us faith in mankind and comforted us. We never heard a complaint. Instead it was “what can we do.” And, Gander made so many people that had never met before, a family. Thanks to all, and God bless you.”  ~ Dan and Stephanie Williams

    “Best regards to the caring people of Newfoundland who dropped everything to take care of the stranded passengers. If only the rest of the world were so good-hearted, we would not be experiencing such unspeakable tragedies. Special thanks to Ness Skinner and all those associated with the Masonic Lodge. I would also like to acknowledge Jack and Karen Bechard and the many co-passengers and crew on TWA flight 819 who took special care of my 10 year old daughter and her grandfather (my father). Largely because of the way you doted over her, my daughter enjoyed her stay in Gander as much as her week in Paris. (Her mother and I are wondering how we are going to compete with the fact that she walked off the plane with an industrial-size trash bag full of toys.) You will all, forever, be in our thoughts and prayers.”  ~ Alex’s dad

    “Our heartfelt thanks to all the wonderful people of Gander, for going “above and beyond” caring, love, and hospitality! TWA Flight 819 from Paris to St. Louis were taken in and housed at the Gander/Airways Masonic Lodge for three days. The volunteers there cooked, arranged for showers and laundry, and made us feel like family. When we left on September 14th, we were family! Thank you cannot begin to express our feelings of gratitude. You will never be forgotten, but fondly remembered as “family and friends”! ~ Jerry & Mieka Gerard: Tampa, Florida

    “To all of the wonderful people of Gander, You turned a disaster into a triumph. My husband and I were coming back from a two week trip to Paris. The experiences we had in Gander, particularly at the Masonic Lodge gave us hope for the future of our troubled world. I am infused with “Gander Generosity and Goodness” and have tried to treat everyone I encounter with the same spirit that you all showed to us. On a funny note, we shared with everyone at home about what happened in your wonderful town. Thank you again for opening your homes and hearts to us. And hello to everyone on TWA Flight 819. “     ~ Paul and Julie Bishop

    Email from Malcolm Bronson

    Hi Guys:

    Several brethren, myself included, have received an inflammatory email entitled “Masonic request” from a “MWB Malcolm Bronson”. I asked WB Danny Done to check it out, and he was able to do a reverse search on the IP and obtain a lot of info as to the sender. Please be aware that there is no “MWB Malcolm Bronson” and that the email is to be deleted.



    Jim Mendoza  

    Grand Master

    Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons of Washington

    A Christmas Message from the Grand Master

    For me, the Christmas season really begins when I hear Andy Williams singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year“. There are two key reasons why I feel this way: One, the Andy Williams Christmas specials were an important part of my childhood. Two, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

    Masonically speaking, it is the height of the installation season. This is our opportunity as brethren to give thanks to the outgoing Master for all of his hard work, to give best wishes to his successor, and to pledge the support of the Brethren to the new ‘team’. I recall my installation as Master of Frank S. Land Lodge No. 313 as a joyous occasion. The energy in the room was electric. I could feel that no one wanted me to fail. No doubt, others who have made the journey to East feel the same way. What’s not wonderful about that?

    This is also a time of religious and moral reflection that inspire many people to reach out to those who are in need. Though Freemasonry is not a charity in the truest sense of the word, charity is an inseparable part of Freemasonry. It is my belief that you cannot be a Freemason if you are not charitable. Being charitable is one way that you can Be the Difference and add to the wonder of the season.

    Most importantly, it is a time when those of us of faith – whatever that faith may be – celebrate then the traditions of our faith. For me and my family, that celebration is Christmas. The story of the birth of Christ as related in the Book of Luke, Chapter 2, (most eloquently recited by Linus Van Pelt) is what makes this time of year most wonderful.

    I also enjoy the secular traditions of the season – shopping, decorating the house, looking at neighborhood light displays, holiday specials, preparing the meal, and the look of joy on a loved one’s face when a present is opened. Lest I forget, I still visit Santa and get my picture taken.

    As I wrap up my Christmas message, I share these words from “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”:

    How can they talk about Santa Claus when there is so much unhappiness in the world? Poor, misguided folks. They missed the whole point. Lot’s of unhappiness? Maybe so. But doesn’t Santa take a little bit of that unhappiness away? Doesn’t a smile on Christmas morning scratch out a tear cried on a sadder day? Not much maybe. But what would happen if we all tried to be like Santa and learned to give as only he can give: of ourselves, our talents, our love and our hearts? Maybe we could all learn Santa’s beautiful lesson and maybe there would finally be peace on Earth and good will toward men.

    A Very Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and the Best of the Holiday Season to one and all – God Bless Us, Everyone!

    Time Marches On

    I am pleased to share the words of RW John Keliher, Grand Secretary Emeritus of the Grand Lodge of Washington, said on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the March of Unity.

    keliherTime is a river that carries in its current a distillate of everything that exists along its banks. It has carried those of us who were fortunate enough twenty years ago to come together to demonstrate Freemasonry’s breadth, to this moment, and we are privileged to be with you today. Many who marched in that first demonstration of Masonic Unity have demitted our Lodges and been received in a higher Jurisdiction. Yet they are with us still. The memory of that first March of Unity and those who walked together in brotherhood remains vivid, alive, and it warms my heart.

    Two-thousand and five hundred years ago a Greek named Heraclitus observed that the universe was comprised of minute particles that were always coming into existence and then, going he knew not where. He said that our existence was so permeated by change that a man could not step in to the same river twice. Some ancient Greek said Heraclitus was only partially right. If we are all made of atoms, and they were always changing, the same man could not step into the same river once because by the time his toe hit the water, his atoms and the river’s had moved on. Everything was changed.

    The difference between the river of time and and human history is that time constantly changes and some people cling to the past, hoping that by preserving the past they may dam up the river of time and ease the pain that always accompanies change. That is understandable, not every change turns out to be beneficial. But change is the inevitable consequence of being alive.

    Our own bodies replace all their cells every seven years but each cell contains within it the memory of its structure and function, its place in the body, and its purpose. The wonder of life is that every particle of our anatomy possesses this memory. It argues strongly that this is a purposeful universe and that we are a purpose filled people. And in Masonry we have found a fraternity with a purpose, a purpose to inculcate ideas that lift humanity up and build a just society: Masonry teaches the ideals of the brotherhood of all mankind, charity to all in need, and the fatherhood of God, our Creator. We have changed but we have maintained that essential identity.

    This is not the same community it was twenty years ago. This not the same Fraternity it was twenty years ago. Despite the anger many of our fellow citizens obviously feel, in spite of the fear – much of it justified – that the scales of justice are not balanced, this is a better community, we are a better Fraternity, and this is – regardless of the headlines in the papers and the media’s love affair with violence, mayhem, and discord – a better world – made better by getting together as we have for twenty years to recognize the the family of man is one. Like the river, mankind is a stream that carries in its current many separate particles but all are part of the same river.

    It was our purpose, two decades ago, to demonstrate Masonic unity. Unity is not the same as uniformity. We came together to celebrate the over arching principles that made us Freemasons and left us free to exhibit Masonry in forms that held in veneration the memories of our origins, celebrated the complexity of freedom itself, acknowledged the validity of Masonry’s belief in the dignity and value of all persons, and championed respect for beliefs in a Supreme Being who had created, loved and redeemed creation. Each year, the Brethren have walked together, worshiped together, shared Fraternal ties together, and, perhaps most importantly, broken bread together as Masons, one people, one family.

    One can march through DuPont but not seem to travel far but that is deceptive. This march of unity began several hundred years ago in a land divided between those who were free and those who were not. Irish slaves were eventually replaced in the American colonies by African slaves. The freedom of one people was achieved at the cost to the other of that precious right, freedom. After its vicious, divisive civil war, this society stumbled forward, segregated, distrustful of immigrants of all kinds, and polarized over religious differences and moved into the industrial revolution in which people fled the farm to work in the city, but carried with them old prejudices and only slowly, very slowly, developed a tepid tolerance for ethnic, racial, and religious differences. The road to DuPont has wound through Detroit and Pittsburgh, Selma and Watts, and while it runs through DuPont, it does not end here. It leads – well, we don’t know where it leads, not exactly, and we have no idea how long that trek will take. But we are a part of a pilgrimage to a better world. There have been many men and women whose feet, naked or shod, have beaten this path before us, who got us to this point in mankind’s travel toward a just and equitable world, and many more will follow. Although our journey may be rough rugged and dangerous, although we may be haunted by fears and uncertainties, and though we may not live to see the promised land, we will, before we have crossed that last river, have participated in the march of humanity toward its purposed destiny: unity, peace, concord, one family under God. We will have done our part.

    You, my Brethren, are a part of history in the making. This humble march is part of an epic journey and your decision to be here today ensures that tomorrow will be a better day for all of our children’s children’s children. Today is a proud day in the saga of Masonry because you are here, here in spirit of Masonic unity.

    But our journey is not over. Perhaps it has only begun. The people of Israel wandered for forty years in the wilderness before getting to the promised Land; to date we have walked together only half that time. I do not expect to complete that march with you, my brethren, not physically, anyway. But if you are here in the year 2036, the centennial of my birth, I will be with you at least in spirit. The March for Unity goes on although aging marchers may slip from the ranks. But each of you, is a part of a great movement to build a better world, one person a time, beginning with our selves. And it is my faith in God, my faith you, that gives me hope that in a day not far off, we shall be truly one people, one nation, one fraternal bond of brothers, indivisible with freedom and justice for all.

    May God continue bless, preserve and prosper the Most Worshipful Grand Lodges of Masons of Prince Hall and Jurisdiction and the Grand Lodge of Washington, and all Masons, wheresoever dispersed.

    Shine the Spotlight on Those Who Deserve It

    Recently the cast of “Hamilton” paid tribute to the landmark musical “A Chorus Line” on the occasion of its 40th anniversary on Broadway. Part of the tribute included the cast of “Hamilton” performing the signature number from “A Chorus Line”, “What I Did for Love”. As various cast members took their turn at a solo section, I was struck by the fact that none of the principals claimed a solo part, This speaks directly to the spirit of “A Chorus Line” – take the spotlight off the star and shine it upon those who make the show work.

    In many ways, your leadership is borrowing this idea from “A Chorus Line”. I think General Colin Powell said it best: “Though important, we will accomplish nothing strictly by organizational chart, strategic plan, or management theory. We will succeed or fail because of the people involved.” So let’s set the future of our Craft by those who make up the Craft, who are our Craft, who are the strength that sustain our Craft, who are our Craft’s future.

    At installation, I laid out eight key initiatives: Improve Membership Retention, Increase Use & Awareness of the New Candidate Education Program, Continue to Develop Future Leaders, Leverage Technology to Improve the Quality of the Lodge Experience, “One More”, Reclaim the Narrative, Review the Long Plan, Reshape the Military Recognition Committee. Each of these initiatives is being undertaken by a key committee, and I am proud to report that each of them have developed plans of action – complete with timelines, deliverables, and measurables – to see to the accomplishment of their objectives. In some cases, objectives have already been achieved, and I am looking forward to each committee sharing with you how they are doing.

    As I stated in my remarks at installation, any success that is achieved will belong to those who make up these key committees, and they will deserve the accolades and applause. Any shortcoming will be on me for not providing the appropriate guidance, direction, or resources. The Grand Master may be the “star”, but it is the brethren who make it work and who deserve the spotlight.

    Featured photo source: YouTube

    Oration: The Tragedy of the Character of Hiram Abiff.

    MGM – Manlalakbay na Gurong Mason (Traveling Master Mason)

    Masonic Family Park

    Granite Falls, Wa.

    July 2, 2016


    The Tragedy of the Character of Hiram Abiff.

    There is a modicum of uncertainty among less-informed brethren as to whether the tragedy of Hiram Abiff really existed. For every lodge has their own interpretation that calls for some brothers to think that it has become something different from its origin. So animated and so confrontational that it no longer suits the insulated sameness that it is to be… a mock tragedy.

    A brother, who showed his shallowness of reason by neglecting the importance of the drama makes him unfit to ever become a member of the craft.

    To understand and appreciate the drama to its fullest extent and to absorb the essence of its profound meaning is something that will be with us for quite sometime.

    Though it is wrong to consider it as history, the image of the drama always comes across with purity and sacred ritualistic quality.

    The catastrophe of our very self is evidently portrayed, regardless of who we are or where we are. It is the reflection of the crisis & fate of that Hiram Abiff in every one of us.

    The work he engaged in to beautify and adorn the temple is similar to the cunning workmanship we do as we try to manage and adorn our own daily lives – our own temple so to speak.

    The ruffians he encountered symbolize none other than the lusts and passions we men fail to subdue.

    And his final destiny to be buried in the rubbish of the temple is an allegorical picture of our great mental distress, a tragic loss of a son, disgrace, or the defeat of our hopes and dreams; this is a common experience in our daily lives.

    The manner in which he was raised again is the same manner by which men, with God’s mighty help, will raise us out of the receptacles of defeat, disgrace or even death.

    We were asked to take part in the drama this afternoon not only to satisfy the ritual of the SUBLIME DEGREE but to impress deeply upon the mind that it is our drama not our newly raised brother, there being exemplified or being inflicted with pain.

    Our participation was intended to be an experience to let us realize that to become a master of our very self we must rise above our own internal enemies.

    After all, as they say: “the strongest among us are the ones who smile through silent pain, cry behind closed doors and fight battles nobody knows about.”

    Finally, though the path to fulfilling happiness may seem elusive to some of us, with the trials and the inevitable sufferings in life, it is still a great day indeed to be a Mason.

    Featured photo source: Wikipedia Commons.