St Paul's Lodge No. 14 - 200th Anniversary Celebration
On a clear, warm evening of September 5 St. Paul's Lodge in Middletown, Rhode Island held its bicentennial main event.
This celebration featured the installation of a time capsule as part of the rededication of the 1967 cornerstone, and the unveiling of the new 200th anniversary bronze plaque. Presiding over the event was M∴W∴Peter Iacobucci Grand Master of Rhode Island, accompanied by the R∴W∴Gilbert J. Fontes, Jr. Grand Marshal, and their ladies; Lady Fran and Lady Blanca. M∴W∴Theodore J. Nelson Grand Master of the State of Connecticut also participated in the ceremony, accompanied by R∴W∴Marshall K. Robinson Deputy Grand Master, R∴W∴Edward C. Page Grand Junior Steward, and Edward's wife Christina, W∴Bill Morse, and R∴W∴ C. A. Duke. This was a very special homecoming for M∴W∴Ted and W∴Bill, as they were able to view the original bylaws of St Paul's Lodge; finding the pages where Ted's grandfather, W∴Julien Collart (Master of St Paul's in 1961) and Bill's father, W∴William H. Morse (Master of St. Paul's in 1962) had signed the ledger as members; attesting to their attainment of their EA, FC, and MM degrees, back in 1955 and 1956, respectively. St. Paul's was honored by the attendance of many Grand Lodge officers, Blue Lodge officers, visiting dignitaries, family, and friends.
Following the regular stated communication, the lodge officers and attending Grand Lodge officers and visiting dignitaries proceeded to the outdoor bi-centennial ceremony, held on a carpeted floor, placed next to the original 1967 Masonic cornerstone. The cornerstone had been installed when the building was purchased by the lodge 50 years ago. The cornerstone/time capsule ritual was presented by St. Paul's Master, Charles E. O'Hara IV; Senior Warden, Joshua Manfredo; Junior Warden, W∴Job Palaya; Associate Grand Chaplain, W∴Alfred M. Cameron; Grand Marshal, R∴W∴Gilbert J. Fontes Jr. and the Grand Masters of Rhode Island and Connecticut. St. Paul's wishes to thank the Pawtuxet Rangers, led by Colonel Ron Barnes, for treating us to thunderous cannon display following the ceremony, as well as at the sunset recognition of colors.
The buffet clam/lobster boil dinner was well attended and enjoyed by all visiting brethren, families and friends; all served under a catering tent adjacent to the lodge, with lights, banquet tables, and an experienced and friendly waitstaff, all provided by McGrath's clambakes, Newport. The fundraiser raffle was successful, mostly based on the generous contributions of fine jewelry by Brother Bent Blondal, with the total proceeds of $535 being donated to the featured charity of St. Paul's Lodge, Lucy's Hearth, of Middletown, a provider for 33 years of shelter, comprehensive programs, and
critical human services to homeless families in a safe, supportive environment that promotes family health and stability.
St. Paul's Lodge is extremely grateful for the loan by the Grand Lodge of the historic Gorham silver set, commissioned and used for the cornerstone dedication of the Rhode Island State House in 1896! Although this beautiful silver set has been used for other building dedications, including the most recent cornerstone dedication of the Veteran's Home in Bristol, this is only the second time the 1896 Grand Lodge silver set has been used in a blue lodge ceremony, and performed with blue lodge officers instead of Grand Lodge officers exclusively. St. Paul's is grateful for this milestone idea, which was inspired by the Grand Master M∴W∴Peter Iacobucci. Other Rhode Island blue lodges may hopefully utilize the Grand Lodge silver set for their own cornerstone rededication ceremonies at anniversary celebrations for years to come.
Our Rhode Island brethren may wonder why St. Paul's chose to rededicate an existing cornerstone in the first place. A bit of background will help to explain. Similar to other lodges, our building was in need of some major repair and restoration both inside and out. Although much of the work was done by our own lodge brothers on a voluntary basis, professional help was needed, especially when dealing with the high elevated peaks and gables of the building. The end result of all this effort is that the building is now, without question, in the best condition ever in the last 50 years. This cornerstone rededication ceremony served to acknowledge both the restoration of the building, and the bicentennial.
As the Most Worshipful Grand Master, Peter Iacobucci, said in his opening address, our 200th anniversary celebration was based at its origin on a profound respect for (and gratitude to) the brethren who, on January 2, 1816, assembled at the house of Jeremiah Bliss, with a desire to establish a new lodge. They agreed to endeavor to obtain a dispensation "for the purpose of devising the best possible means of preserving the reputation of the institution unsullied, and promoting the interests of the Masonry." As the Grand Master pointed out, this is no small achievement given the level of communication, travel, and technology at the time. Our lodges, and Freemasonry in Rhode Island are here today, 200 years later, based not only on the belief and vision of our forefathers, but on the continued commitment, loyalty, and participation of all our brethren. This is where the rubber meets the road. Sure, it is great to have the privilege of having the use of a beautiful lodge building, especially when we have by grace been given the means to sustain and maintain this historic structure. The real challenge, however, is to make sure the lodge building is occupied and used by our newest members and by continuing to appreciate and utilize the best efforts of our current members, with the common goal of growing our fraternity. Without the expanding brotherhood our fervent efforts put into preserving any Masonic building are ultimately of no substance, no real meaning.
The cornerstone ceremony we witnessed had deep significance, in the context of the past, the present, and the future. We acknowledged those who set the first cornerstones in Rhode Island, both in buildings and in the hearts and lives of our brothers who came before us. Like a cornerstone, the founding fathers of Rhode Island Freemasonry were "well formed, true and trusty, and accurately laid." It is up to the present membership to see that "this work, auspiciously begun, be continued and completed by the benign principles of peace, harmony, and brotherly love." Our future depends on our willingness "to build a house, which we pray God may deserve to prosper, by becoming a place of concourse for good men, and promoting harmony and brotherly love throughout the world, until time shall be no more."