Commander's Comments

Commander's Comments | Jun 2013

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Sir Knights,

Well spring is behind us and another summer is on the horizon. Lodges by and lodge take the summers off and we reap the benefits of brothers across the country being free from their Lodge duties and able to participate in the various York Rite activities that take place.

Speaking of activities, despite canceling our regular conclave we’ve had a number of them since my last letter, and I have no shortage of news to share with you. Firstly, we had the pleasure of taking part in this year’s Southeastern Battalion Ascension observance, organized by Adrian Commandery No. 4, and hosted by Raisin Presbyterian Church, the home church of our Right Eminent Grand Commander, Sir Knight Cortland Rule.

And while on the subject of Southeast Michigan York Rite Masonry I would personally like to thank the Companions of the Southeast Michigan York Rite Association for electing me as president at our recent meeting, and look forward to serving the York Rite bodies in the region for the ensuing year. And as my first act as President I’ve begun work on a new Southeast Michigan York Rite Association & Southeastern Battalion website which when completed will be hosted at semyra.org.  

In addition to our Ascension Service and Southeastern Battalion Meeting we also had a Commandery school of instruction where our Past Grand Commander, Sir Knight Jim Hawn helped us to work out some of the kinks in our ritual work, and plan for our upcoming inspection. We’ve set a date of November 9th for our inspection which will allow us far more time to plan than in year’s past and allow a week off for the Sir Knights who will also be participating in Ypsilanti’s Inspection on October 26th. More details on dates for practices and locations will follow.

In other news our long awaited commandery jewels have arrived and can be purchased by Sir Knights for thirty dollars. I’m exceptionally pleased with the way they turned out, and serve as a fitting fusion of historical and the more contemporary design from Ann Arbor Commander’s past. And of course I would like to thank Brother Dave and his company, Hattrick’s Merchandise for producing these fantastic jewels. 

The first Sir Knights who will be receiving this jewel are our current Knights of Malta, Thane Domrase, and Ronald Merritt II who are awaiting the Order of the Temple which with the help of Adrian Commandery will be conferred on them in the coming months.

Also I’ll mention that for me, and my fellow brothers of Myrtle Lodge No. 89, June means the Belleville National Strawberry Festival every Father’s Day weekend of June where we’ll be selling fresh strawberries right in front of the lodge and our famous Strawberry Shortcake in our cool air conditioned dining room. I’ll be there and I’ll hope to see many of you as well. 

And speaking of Myrtle Lodge it’s important to mention that given the small space of our current location they, at their most recent temple board meeting have agreed to allow the Ann Arbor York Rite to use their location for some of our larger degrees and orders as well as store the required regalia there. So while we are eternally grateful to all the Chapters Councils and Commanderies that have allowed us to bring candidates for further light in masonry we’ll be happy to have this home away from home where we can begin organizing work ourselves. 

Our next stated is on June 17th where in addition to our business Chapter will be conferring the Mark Master Mason degree on a brother from Olive Lodge so come out and support your Chapter on starting this brother on journey that will in time lead him to being knighted by our order.

Thanks for reading this month’s letter and I hope to see you at our meeting in June and at the Strawberry Fest!

Deo duce, ferro comitante,

Brandon Mullins, Commander 

Commander’s Comments | May 2012

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Sir Knights,

I’d first like to start out by thanking the you all for sticking with me for another year. I’d like to think our commandery has made some improvements over the past year, but we still have a long way to go. So I deeply appreciate your confidence in me, and hope to have another amazing year in templary. In addition I’d like to apologize of not writing enough of these letters. A busy life and last minute changes in plans have kept me from getting them out on time if ever, and while updates to our website, calendar and Facebook page are nice, the importance of a personal letter is not lost on me and I pledge to get them out with more regularity this year. 

It seems I’ve had no shortage of opportunities to don my uniform this spring. On Palm Sunday we took part in Ypsilanti Commandery No.54’s Easter Observance at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Ypsilanti. 

The Wednesday following Easter I was up in Toronto and visited Cyrene Preceptory No. 29, where by pure happenstance was I able to visit them on a night when they were conferring the Order of the Temple, and come to find out this was the first time they had conferred the order in over two years. On top of that I had the honor of filling in as Sword Bearer!

And on Friday, April 12th my Junior Warden and I were fortunate enough to attend Detroit Commandery No. 1’s installation of officers, where Reverend and Sir Knight Pat Thompson was installed as Eminent Commander. 

Now, you might think that attending all these events would give me my fill of commandery for a while, but if anything they compel me to take part in more. Funny how it works that way. Speaking of which we have a few important things coming up for commandery: For starters our Right Eminent Grand Commander, Cortland Rule has invited us, and the rest of the Southeastern Battalion to commemorate the ascension of Jesus Christ at Holloway Raisin Presbyterian Church for Adrian Commandery No. 4’s Ascension Observance, Sunday, May 5th. We will assemble at 9:15am, and the church service will begin at 9:30am. This is a full uniformed event and your families are invited. So we hope to see every Sir Knight who can make it in attendance.

We also have some work of our own to do. We have two Knights of Malta in waiting to receive the Order of the Temple. Adrian Commandery has agreed to help us with one of the knightings and the way it’s looking we’ll save the other for our inspection. A scheduling conflict caused our original date to fall through so we’re currently looking to set up another, so please keep an eye on our website and calendar for the latest information. In addition, inspection season is right around the corner so dates for practices and the inspection itself will be popping up soon, so once again, be sure to keep an eye out for those. Speaking of our calendar we recently had to change calendar services so our new calendar is located here as well as our website, aayorkrite.org. 

April’s meeting was in fact a very busy one. In addition to elections, and annual reports we voted on two honorary statuses which will be officially announced later, and voted to at long last produce new commandery jewels for the members of our commandery. Because of that, for this letter I had hoped to provide you with a history of our jewel complete with who originally created it, and the timeline of production. Well, after digging through our records I’m sad to say most the details are probably lost to the ages. However I was able to put together a few images of our jewels evolution, and will give you a little insight into the meaning behind it. 

The earliest record of our jewel I could find was an article in the “Ann Arbor Argus” newspaper dated August 19, 1892 which was in fact a summary of a “Denver Times” article from August 8, 1892 which detailed Ann Arbor Commandery’s trip to Denver and gave information on the commandery as a whole.  In it they described the armorial crest which makes up the jewel and our legend upon it, Deo duce ferro comitante which signifies ‘God for my leader, my sword for my companion.’ The phrase itself is often credited as the official motto of the Earl of Charlemount, Ireland but it’s thought to be much older, and served as traditional motto for Sir Knights throughout Ireland and beyond. 

The jewel itself is known to have had at least two versions. One of which is a copper stamping, and the other cast in silver with portions plated in gold. I’ve yet to find a date on a copper version, and the only one known to be in masonic hands is on display at the Detroit Masonic Temple, but the silver and gold design dates back to at least the 1920s, and is believed to have been produced for far longer than any other. In heraldic tradition the use of silver and gold on an armorial crest signifies peace & sincerity along with generosity & elevation of the mind, and the swords in saltire behind it pointing upward signifies a readiness to fight evil. That along with the traditional Templar symbol of the red cross, and the crown above it makes for both a handsome and meaningful crest.  The colors of the ribbon are unsurprisingly said to represent the University of Michigan, which has obvious implications of education and support for our local community but given the definition of “maize and blue” has changed over the years, the blue on the ribbon was much lighter. 

When we began discussing which version to reproduce, the silver and gold design was the obvious choice, but we didn’t ignore the older versions entirely and took cues from them on some of the finer details and updated the colors of the ribbon to match contemporary University of Michigan colors. The jewel is currently being worked on Hattrick’s Merchandise and Service located in Arizona which also recently reproduced Northville Commandery’s jewel, so I have every confidence in their abilities, and they should be available for June’s stated conclave. 

Speaking of upcoming conclaves have decided to cancel May’s conclave due to it falling on the annual Grand Lodge session, but remember we still have the Ascension Service on May 5th, and Ann Arbor Council No. 86 will be taking a road trip up to Pontiac for their Council All Degree Day, so don’t think for a second that the Ann Arbor York Rite is taking the month off. We have plenty to do and plenty to plan for.

So, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and I’d just like to remind you to keep up with our website, keep up with our calendar, and keep reading the Ann Arbor Masonic News as we have a lot going on these days and we’d love to see you there.

Deo duce, ferro comitante,

Brandon Mullins, Commander

Commander's Comments | Dec 2012

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Merry Christmas Sir Knights,

I have taken my time in getting this letter out in part because I knew I wanted a Christmas theme but I wasn’t really feeling the Christmas spirit. This is my 4th year celebrating Christmas as a father rather than a child, and while the blessings of such are countless, you find yourself easily caught in the “business” of Christmas. I take great joy in teaching my children about Christmas, and seeing their faces on Christmas day but putting up decorations, buying presents, and going to events can be positive or negative depending on your perspective at the time, and with work that doesn’t slow down for the holiday, overbearing commercialization, and the constant controversy over the very nature of the season, Christmas as a grownup tends to gravitate towards the latter. 

I’ve come to find that simply enjoying Christmas in the 21st century is no easy task. It seems like every day we hear someone trying to guilt us out of it. Buying presents is supporting ramped consumerism, decorations are wasting electricity, and even wishing someone a Merry Christmas can be construed as a sign of ignorance or crassness followed with the regular reminder that Christmas includes numerous pre-Christian rituals, falls in or around Hanukkah, or other contemporary celebrated holidays and falls on countless other pre-Christmas holidays which also may have influenced his development, meaning obviously that guiltless enjoyment should be impossible. And it wouldn’t be the Christmas season if the ACLU didn’t sue someone. The Anti-Defamation League refers to the season as the “December Dilemma,” a fitting name for what we’ve made it. 

On the other side you have those who brigade to “Keep Christ in Christmas,” a noble effort that even our Grand Encampment recommends we take part in as Suggestion 29 in the Guidelines for Religious Activities. But it too has its drawbacks, turning a joyous season into yet another battleground, and alienating those who do celebrate holidays near December’s end. So how do we weather the storm, and enjoy ourselves? The only thing I’ve learned to do is to focus on the fruits of Christmas. It is still a season that uniquely and internationally shifts our heart towards giving to others, encourages joy and good cheer, and gives us a profound focus on the gifts we have received as a result of the birth of our blessed Emmanuel, whatever time of the year he was born in. I have long loved the drive home on Christmas night. Businesses are closed, streets are empty, and the focus on goodness is alive in the air.  It is a season of magic, excitement, and tradition that all the superficial criticism in the world cannot destroy. 

It takes work sometimes, and there is much foolishness to cut through, but it is my charge to all Sir Knights to enjoy the Christmas season as best you can, and allow it to fill you with the joy and peace of the LORD. 

We will still be having our regular meeting on December 17th but the focus will be on Ann Arbor Council No. 86’s Installation of Officers. We do however have two Knights of Malta in waiting, and plans for their Order of the Temple are forthcoming. In addition I would encourage all Sir Knights to support the Southeastern Battalion and attend Northville Commandery’s Christmas observance on Thursday, December  20th at 7pm on 106 E Main Street, Northville, MI. And upcoming in January we have Olive Lodge No. 156 & Stockbridge Lodge No. 130’s honor guard on Saturday, January 5th at 113 W Middle Street, Chelsea, MI to plan for. Our own Thane Domrase, a Knight of Malta is being installed as Worshipful Master of Olive Lodge, so I’m hoping to put on a good show. Speaking of putting on a good show as many of you have seen I’ve had our Drill Badge redrawn, and am currently taking quotes on getting it remade. If anyone has any suggestions on who to go to they would be greatly appreciated.

I thank you all for reading this month’s letter and wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Deo duce, ferro comitante,

Brandon Mullins, Commander 

Commander's Comments | Nov 2012

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Sir Knights,

Earlier in October, Sir Knight Art and I were honored with the opportunity to welcome the heads of all of the York Rite Bodies including our Right Eminent Grand Commander, Cortland Rule at the Grand York Rite Reception out in Chelsea. It was a great time of fellowship and celebration and I once again look forward to the ensuing grand year.Ann Arbor Commandery No. 13 has been quite active as well and with the help of Detroit Commandery No. 1 and their fantastic ritual work we have two new Knights of Malta awaiting the Order of the Temple.

We have yet to plan dates for the Order of the Temple but Detroit Commandery has once again opened their home to us and offered their assistance in the Knighting of these Brothers and at our stated conclave on the 19th I’m sure we’ll be discussing the details. In addition given all the degree work that has been going on over the past few months we now have 4 new members of the Ann Arbor York Rite as a whole, and our next stated will also be a fantastic opportunity to introduce yourself to these new Companions and show them the hospitality and brotherly love that comes with fellowship among us.

Another attribute you’d hope to find amongst us is chivalry, and that’s the very subject I’d like to discuss in this letter. Chivalry has always been a subject near and dear to my heart. It never ceases to spark my interest or influence my actions, without it I wouldn’t be the man I am today, and it’s my interest in it that first caught the attention of the woman who would become my wife dramatically improving my life and changing my fate forever.

Chivalry in its most basic sense began as the rules of conduct seen suitable for mounted combat and eventually knighthood. As time went on it grew more complex with countless manuals detailing the responsibilities of the chivalrous, and while no one particular set of guidelines ever became the standard certain duties were always inculcated: Duty to others, duty, to God, and duty to women. These duties quickly become the core knightly virtues and with the popularization of the concept of decidedly Christian Knighthood they became the ultimate way a Knight could serve his LORD and Savior.

So why the continued interest in the antiquated ideals of long dead warriors? Because they’re still needed. Rev. Charles Kingsley said “Some say that the age of chivalry is past, that the spirit of romance is dead. The age of chivalry is never past, so long as there is a wrong left unredressed on earth.” And I can certainly say I agree with it. I still try to practice chivalry because just as all swords have not yet been beat into ploughshares man does not yet by default serve his neighbor, his God, or women as he should and chivalry is a standard still to be strived for, and still broadly unmet.

But on the other side of the coin we cannot take the subject too literally or thoughtlessly. Chivalry may have been the code of the Knights of old but the world has changed and we must change with it. If we even look back to the roots of our magnanimous order, the definition of Knight was quick to change from a man actively engaged in combat to a man who who served the order valorously in any capacity, allowing for both operative and, say speculative knights. As they changed what made a man a knight so have we and so must we continue in order to best serve the LORD in our ever changing world. As Kenelm Henry Digby put it so poetically, “Chivalry is only a name for that general spirit or state of mind which disposes men to heroic actions, and keeps them conversant with all that is beautiful and sublime in the intellectual and moral world.” So should we all be filled with that spirit and never shy from heroic actions or being an active part in the sublimity of the intellectual and moral world.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short discussion on chivalry and stand willing to help welcome our new members with open arms at our home at Calvary United Methodist Church at 6:30pm on Monday the 19th. We have much to discuss much to plan, hope to see you all there, and if we don’t have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Deo duce, ferro comitante,

Brandon Mullins, Commander

Commander's Comments | Oct 2012

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Sir Knights,

With great anticipation I write you this letter as I have much to report and exciting things to announce. First I would like to start out by thanking Ypsilanti Commandery No. 54, for working with us, and making this year’s joint inspection possible, and in my opinion a great success. In addition I would like to thank Sir Knight Paul Roggow, Eminent Grand Generalissimo, and Sir Knight Don Trumbull, Eminent Grand Senior Warden for serving as our inspecting officers for Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti respectively and all Sir Knights present who came to support us in our endeavors including our Right Eminent Grand Commander, Sir Knight Courtland Rule. I had a lot of fun this year, and am already looking forward to next year’s inspection. 

This year we had the honor of knighting Sir Knight Michael Peirce into Ypsilanti Commandery No. 54 during our inspection and it is my belief that will serve his commandery well and his zeal and enthusiasm will be as asset to the order at large. 

In addition to the usual festivities that come with inspection, Sir Knight Gary Leach, Eminent Commander of Ypsilanti Commandery, and I were shocked to each be presented with the Grand Commander’s Service Award by our Grand Commander during our inspection luncheon. I think I can speak for both Sir Knight Gary and I when I say that we are humbled to receive such an honor and will proudly wear the award on our uniforms as we continue to serve this illustrious order.

But just because our inspection has passed doesn’t mean you can put your sword away because we have candidates in waiting, and work is coming up soon, very soon. Detroit Commandery No. 1 has agreed to host the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, on Monday October 15th at 7pm, and the Order of Malta on Tuesday the 23rd, both at the Detroit Masonic Temple and both in full form. In addition it has been offered to put on a special knighting at the Detroit Masonic Temple specifically for our candidates at a future date using an Order Team that will be made up primarily of our members. We will have candidates at both the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross and Order of Malta dates set, and will have to plan for the Order of the Temple in the future, but as the date for the Red Cross conflicts with our stated conclave it has been decided between I, and our Thrice Illustrious Master & High Priest that we cancel our stated conclave for October and resume in November. In addition to this letter we will be sending out notices of this cancelation via e-mail and it will be posted on the web. Also take note that this month there is a Southeastern Battalion meeting on the 29th at 6:30pm in Samaria, and we’d love to see as many of our Sir Knights possible there.

It is my custom in these letters to include a piece of education, and in this one I will be answering a specific question, “What the heck do the shoulder boards mean?” One could easily write a book about commandery uniforming and I very well may address other aspects in the future but I’ve been asked this specific question a few times recently, and thought I might as well answer it.  

The Commandery Uniform can be easily described as a military dress uniform. It has some features that are common amongst all military uniforms, some that are unique to it alone and others that by design specifically duplicate the features of other military uniforms.  The shoulder boards or shoulder straps are among of those features. Their basic design comes from the US Army Dress Blue uniform, and they serve the same purpose, to signify rank. All dais officers within a Commandery wear shoulder boards as well as all officers of the Grand Commandery and Grand Encampment. The background of a constituent commandery’s shoulder board is green in color, and the insignia on it is the same as their jewel of office. The green represents as we have learned through our various travels through Masonry, the immortality of the soul, a most basic and fundamental belief that all Knights Templar must adhere to. In addition it can represent the green pastures of creation of which the LORD we trust will guide is through and allow us to safely lie upon, and as it is color of the first shoulder board any officer receives the honor of wearing it also represents new growth, as these men will be the future of the Commandery. 

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The Eminent Commander’s insignia is the Latin, or Passion Cross emanating rays of light. The cross itself, as one might expect represents the crucifixion of our Blessed Emanuel whose sacrifice allowed us the gift of eternal bliss with our Father in Heaven, but in addition, the rays of light remind us that humility, love and pure benevolence should always be found emanating from our belief in that great gift. While we may have been saved through faith, without works that faith is clearly dead. The further allusion of a cross placed on the shoulders of a Sir Knight is to that of Simon of Cyrene who was compelled to bear our Savior’s cross as well as the cross we must all bear so we can in time wear the crown.

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After you serve your term as Eminent Commander and see your replacement is duly installed you have reached the status of Past Commander and wear a similar shoulder board to the one you wore while commander, except in this case the background is red which as we have been previously taught in our journeys through Masonry represents the fervency and zeal which a leader must espouse to assure success, and represents our acceptance of the precious blood of the Lamb of God, which was slain for our benefit. This shoulder board continues to be worn even if you cycle back through the line. Once you become a Past Commander you never go back to an officer’s green shoulder board. It also serves to represent a Past Commander’s connection with the Grand Commandery which also wears Red shoulder boards as a Past Commander is obligated to continually support his Grand Commandery long after his term as Eminent Commander is over. 

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The Generalissimo’s insignia is the Square surmounted by the Paschal Lamb, a representation of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for us. Masonic tradition tells us the Square is a symbol of leadership and a guide for our actions. The Paschal Lamb’s place upon it is to remind us that Christ is our eternal leader and it is by his teachings that we should square our actions. 

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The Captain General’s insignia is that of a level surmounted by a rooster. As with the square we are informed of its meaning by Masonic tradition but the rooster itself has three unique places in Christian symbolism. He marks time as to give order to man, crowing in the morning and at night, he has also served to announce transgressions such as in Peter’s denial of Christ but most notably he is a relentless fighter, always zealous and always to conquer or be conquered however the LORD may will. As so should the Captain General give order to the commandery, keep them mindful of their transgressions have zeal for his duties. 

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The Excellent Prelate’s insignia is called the Triple Triangle, and is considered to be a beautiful emblem of the LORD. It consists of three triangles, each with a Latin Cross resting inside. This is to represent the three aspects of deity, omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, as well as the three figures of the Godhead, The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. In addition, the three triangles positioned as they are make a shape with 9 sides referencing the ninth hour in which Jesus Christ expired, the nine times he presented himself to the apostles after his resurrection, and the nine fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, truthfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Given the office of Prelate is often held by a Past Commander this set of shoulder boards is rarely seen, but on rare occasions folks like myself have the honor of wearing them for a time

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Just as a Past Commander, and for the same symbolic reasons, members of the Grand Commandery wear shoulder boards with a red background, but instead of the Latin Cross, or a cross of their office, they wear the Cross Pattée, or Templar Cross, a long held symbol of royal power within Christendom. It serves as the cross of kings, bishops and many others in authority throughout the world and has often been considered a de facto official symbol of the Knights Templar in general. It is believed that this Cross was given to the Knights Templars by Pope Eugeniu, but that has been contentious point of debate. None the less its regal linage dates back centuries if not melena and has always been connected to authority.

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Much as a sitting commander’s shoulder board transitions from green to red when he becomes a past commander, placing him alongside the ranks of the Grand Commandery, when a Grand Commander becomes a Past Grand Commander his shoulder board transitions from red to purple, placing him alongside the ranks of the Grand Encampment of the United States of America. Purple is worn by the top leaders within our institution because it represents royalty, authority, and leadership. This status is affirmed in Masonry and is found all throughout western civilization, very possibly dating back to the purple vestments worn by Aaron. In addition purple was the color of the robe placed on Jesus Christ during the Passion and represents to us the close personal relationship possible between the Son of Man and those who accept him into their hearts and purse it. In that way the colors of the shoulder boards are emblematic of the Christian experience, with green representing growing faith, red representing accepting the gift of Christ, and purple representing the close personal relationship found within.  

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The emblem worn by members of the Grand Encampment is the Cross of Lorraine. First used in Ancient Samaria, the Cross of Lorraine is has long been used as an ideogram for rulership. It is the historical heraldic arms of an arch bishop and the Patriarch of Jerusalem and is named for the Duke of Lorraine, Godfrey of Bouillon who knowing this history used it as his standard when he took the holy city. A humble man at heart, Godfrey was quick to bestow the holy symbol to a group of Sir Knights with the high aims of defending pilgrims traveling to the holy land, a group that would later become the Knights Templar. This cross carried through the ages served as the first recognition of our noble deeds and continues to be worn on the shoulders of Grand Encampment officers to this day.

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The emblem worn by the Most Excellent Grand Master is the Cross of Salem. The Cross of Salem is a symbol both ancient and shrouded in mystery. Today it is most commonly associated with the Pope of the Catholic Church but this triple barred cross may date back well before the days of Popes. It’s three arms are said to represent The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, and as such it serves as a beautiful Trinitarian statement that though the Son was Crucified it was the will of The Father and The Holy Spirit. In addition it has been said such a symbol was once used to represent Salem, the Royal City of Melchizedek, and future place of Jerusalem, and even that it serves as a representation of the Tree of Life. Facts are rare when it comes to this symbol of our faith, and stories are conflicting, but what we know for certain is that this cross has been long used in conjunction with ultimate mortal leadership within Christendom and is a fitting emblem of the leader of all Knights Templar. 

As a close relationship with Christ is the most we can hope for while still walking this earth, the color of the Grand Master’s shoulder board remains purple even as a Past Grand Master, but he forever carries the Cross of Salem with him as a testament to his dedication to and leadership within our glorious and magnanimous order. 

Well Sir Knights, what started as a simple question went on for pages so I thank you for staying with me. Remember to join us at 7pm on Monday the 15th at the Detroit Masonic Temple for the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, and Tuesday the 23rd for the Order of Malta, as well as for the Southeastern Battalion meeting on the 29th at 6:30pm at Samaria. Also be sure to remember our Cub Scouts, Pack 405 in Ann Arbor and if you see them around selling popcorn show your support and buy some.  

Deo duce, ferro comitante,

Brandon Mullins, Commander 

Commander's Comments | Sep 2012

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Sir Knights,

I write this looking forward to the upcoming Grand York Rite Session. I wasn’t able to attend last year, but this year will be particularly exciting as I’ll be able to see two men who have been a part of my Masonic life from nearly the beginning take roles as the heads of their respective grand bodies, and get to experience their vision for the York Rite in the ensuing year. 

In addition I’m looking forward to our upcoming inspection with Ypsilanti Commandery No. 54. It took some time but we worked things out, and I think we have a solid team that will make this year’s joint inspection a fantastic success. To make that success possible we have scheduled weekly practices every Thursday at 7pm at the Ypsilanti Masonic Temple, 5752 Whittaker Road, Ypsilanti MI leading up to our inspection.

The inspection itself will take place on Saturday morning, the 15th of September at the Ypsilanti Masonic Temple. Sir Knight Paul Raggow, Grand Generalisimo and Sir Knight Donald L. Trumbull, Grand Senior Warden of the Grand Commandery of Michigan will be the Inspecting Officers. The Commanderies will open at 9:00 am. Coffee and rolls will be available at 8:15. A buffet luncheon will follow closing at a cost of $10.00 a person payable at the door or by check to Ann Arbor Commandery No. 13.

For reservations, no later than 8 September, please contact: 

Arthur W. Davidge, HPC, Recorder 

Ann Arbor Commandery No. 13,K.T. of MI

4551 N. Maple Road,  Ann Arbor  MI  48105-9614

Voice/FAX: +1 734 769 6982

adavidge@umich.edu

Inspections serve as the high point of activity for many Commanderies not only requiring us to put on our most complex and illustrious order, candidate or none, but also allowing those of us who have a variety of Masonic duties the excuse to put emphasis on Commandery. So of course all of us preparing for an inspection are thinking about Commandery, talking about Commandery, and inevitably will get questions about Commandery. And likely the most prevalent question I’ve received is really, “What is this distinctly Christian body doing in predominantly nonsectarian Freemasonry?” Well it is indeed a Christian body. There is no doubt of that. Admittance to Commandery enjoins Sir Knights to defend the Christian religion, and express their preference to it above all others. This in effect makes the Knights Templar Christian body. But why have a Masonic body that serves a specific faith? I would break it down into three reasons.

First is history and tradition. Wherever you stand on a practical historical Templar connection it can still be said that first and foremost the Knights Templar is an institution founded upon the Christian Religion. To attempt to remove that from the body would contradict its very nature. And once again regardless of history, Christian Templarisim has been a long held part of Freemasonry and while a variety of other Masonic bodies deal with Templar legend, some requiring Christian faith while others not doing so I would say that the Knights Templar most specifically speaks to the Christian experience, and most directly takes on the Christian aspects of Templarisim which leads me to my next point.

As someone who has been active in Commandery for several years and currently serves as Commander I can say that the orders themselves are written with the Christian initiate in mind and while I have known many Commanderies to knight non-Christians I have found that these companions tend to get significantly less out of the Orders. The only Order that isn’t specifically tailored to Christianity is the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross which while near and dear to my heart carries with it a legend that makes its appearance in Christian and Nonsectarian Masonic bodies alike including the Scottish Rite, Knight Masons, and Red Cross of Constantine. It is broadly shared and not unique to the otherwise Christianity centric Commandery. When speaking about Commandery and advising non-Christians about their potential admittance I’ve often said “it is what it is” and what it is, is a body focused Christianity, and the Christian experience.

But the third, most practical, and I believe most important part is that the world needs more rational chivalrous Christians. Christianity is the world’s largest religion and arguably the most divided. With a myriad of denominations and conflicts that have lasted centuries, the world needs an organization where men can unite and support the faith as a whole. Now Commandery is not a church just as Freemasonry is not a religion, but Commandery’s duty to support the Christian faith cannot be understated. The Knights Templar of old may have been Catholic warriors who in the minds of the profane have become synonymous with crusaders but primarily they were defenders, researchers, historians, archeologists, and theologians who researched their faith in a way the west never thought possible and ended up seeing their open-mindedness become a charge of heresy that doomed them to the stake. We live in an era where the majority of churches make little effort to attract rational minds and chivalry is dead. Joining Freemasonry means you have expressed a willingness to embrace men of other faiths as brothers and have taken a look at your faith through the eyes of naturalism. In the Royal Arch you are imbedded in Jewish thought which is the basis of all Abrahamic faiths, and in joining Commandery you have been so vetted by your previous experiences that we know you are willing to look at your Christian faith with wisdom and rationality. These men of course are a rare commodity in a world full of extremism, and lukewarm attitudes but Commandery serves as a resource for those who are willing to practice their faith shamelessly and rationally as well as defend it from extremists who would serve to steal it from us rational men whether they come from outside the faith or from within. In addition Commandery seeks to revive the concept of chivalry within the hearts of these modern Christian men, bringing back traditions long forgotten in our materialistic secular world that lead men to charity and pure beneficence making our fame known far and wide. 

But our fame has weaned. The Knights Templar, a thinking man’s Christian Chivalric Order found deep within the recesses of Freemasonry has atrophied in recent history, leading it to be a shadow of its former glory. But I think that can be repaired, I think we can achieve greatness once again, not only because we can but because the world needs us to. We need more rational chivalrous men as pillars of the Christian world building bridges and making the faith of our fathers respected and honored as it should be. For that we need Christian Masons to read about the Knights Templar learn about our history, and learn about the work we wish to do in our communities. But most importantly talk to a Sir Knight about why he joined and why he feels Commandery is important to his Masonic and Christian life. You’ve just read the opinion of one man, but throughout the local Commanderies you can find countless experiences, views, and beliefs about the subject and I hope you take the time to listen to them.

As for the non-Christian in York Rite as a whole, I can assure you that you will never be pressured into to joining Commandery by me or any of my Sir Knights, and assuming you join both Council and as well as Chapter your York Rite experience will never be seen as incomplete and your views will always be respected. But should you chose to join Commandery I have used the following quote as a guiding principle:

Symbolic masonry teaches the observances of the cardinal virtues admonishes to walk uprightly before God and man. In the asylum, a purely Christian institution, founded on the Christian religion, the Sir Knight, impressed with the spirit of chivalry, grounds his faith in the teachings of the Divine Master. If templarism has no “sectarian system of belief or worship,” if it proposes no creed, it does teach the necessity of a firm belief in the fundamental religious truths of Christianity. A frater, therefore-, may be a good templar, without being a member of a church of CHRIST; but he cannot be a devout, consistent Christian, and abjure the perceptive and comprehensive teachings of symbolic or templar masonry.

- Sir Albert G. Brice, Grand Commander of Louisiana, 1889

I hope you’ve enjoyed this rather lengthy article and if you’re coming to the Grand York Rite Session I will see you there, and I hope to see as many Sir Knights as possible at our annual inspection. 

Deo duce, ferro comitante,

Brandon Mullins, Commander 

Commander's Comments | Jun 2012

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Sir Knights,

In my first letter addressing you as Commander of Ann Arbor Commandery No. 13, Knights Templar I’d first like to thank our installing staff, Eminent Grand Junior Warden, Don Trumbull serving as installing officer, and Eminent Commander of Adrian Commandery No. 4, Wes Tapp, who made our installation a fantastic success, the Sir Knights of Ann Arbor Commandery No. 13 who’s confidence in me has allowed me to take on this role, my loving wife and family that have supported me in all my masonic endeavors and the LORD who through all things are possible. 

In addition to the Sir Knights being installed that evening Sir Knight Arthur Davidge elevated to the rank of Honorary Past Commander via unanimous vote following a written motion from Paul Howell, PC, KYCH. Sir Art’s years of service within the Commandery as its Recorder, organizer, facilitator and as a ritualist certainly merit admiration and are worthy of imitation. He was presented with his Honorary Past Commander shoulder boards and jewel at the installation and we look forward to his continued support. 

In my speech following my installation I took a moment and talked about the history and chivalry that draw men to the commandery. I can speak for myself, but I also see in others this desire to embrace values and ideas that have been forgotten in much of the modern world, to look at the traditions of the past to build a better future, to not only appreciate men of character but to consider yourself among them. It is for these reasons that we become Knights Templar and do what we can to embrace their ideas of faith and chivalry in our every day, very modern lives.

It was because of this strong historical connection that I began to research the history of Ann Arbor Commandery in preparation for becoming its commander. While we trace our traditions back to an order founded in the 12th century, we found a glory of our own in the 19th here in America, and while I have been a student of the original Templars for much of my life, I wanted to learn of our direct forbearers as well.  Truly they found a prosperity of their own that dwarfs us today. Over the past few months I have been posting some of our findings on our web page, whether it’s news articles that prove our impact on the community, or pictures that fail to capture our vast numbers, you can see a history that carries a distinction of its own, where man took up the banner of the Templar and with their vast numbers and singing regalia declared their faith in Christ and dedication to the defense of innocent maidens, destitute widows, helpless orphans, and the Christian Religion. So alien a concept considering the world I grew up in, but perhaps that’s why I am so driven to see it revived. 

In this research I found many things, some trivial, some profound, but always interesting. Traditions long forgotten, territorial disputes long made irrelevant, but a passion for Templary that stands to this day. This week I will be posting the full “Historical Sketch of Ann Arbor Commandery No. 13 Knights Templar Ann Arbor, Michigan” compiled by Sir Knight Harrison H. Caswell, PC. This book served as an invaluable guide when searching through the archives and gave me more than a few interesting bits of information. For example, the founding members of Ann Arbor Commandery were all Knighted in Detroit Commandery and as such the Detroit Commandery regulation sword has traditionally been used as our own I also learned as one might expect we have long been an integral part of Ann Arbor history raising funds for the WWI war effort and serving as beloved fraternity to majors, judges professors at the recently moved University of Michigan, but what I didn’t expect was to learn that we spear headed the effort to build Ann Arbor Masonry’s second meeting place, and that this second temple is still completely intact. 

On the third floor above Urban Jewelers on Main in Ann Arbor with Templar symbols still adorning it sits a Masonic meeting place unused for over a century. The first meeting location for the Ann Arbor Masonic bodies was without running water or rest rooms, and its cramped conditions compelled Ann Arbor Commandery gather the Masonic bodies together to build this third floor on a building that was already in the process of being constructed at the time. It served not only as home to many of the Ann Arbor Masonic bodies in existence today but in fact was where Fraternity Lodge No. 262 was founded. 

Inside is a vast lodge room with high ceilings and the common markings that would tell any Mason who met here. Untouched by the owners, but weathered by time, the third floor has gone unused outside of the occasional use for storage and still stands as a testament to our history. It represents a time where Masonry was on the move, and Commandery helped to lead the charge. How many men were made masons, companions and sir knights in that room, what ideas ran through the minds of men when 262 was formed there, what do we carry with us due to this linage? I don’t know for sure, but it excites me. I long for a time where the Ann Arbor Masonic bodies meet together again, where we have the resources and manpower to move stone, and build buildings, and where time honored traditions guide our future. Will we reach this level again? I don’t know but with my sword as my companion and God as my leader I hope to move towards a future of stronger Masonry, through greater unity. 

I hope you have found my discoveries as interesting as I have, and I would like to thank my immediate predecessor Sir Knight Corey Curtiss, PC for accompanying me in the adventures that led to them. As usual our stated conclave will be on the third Monday which is 18th this month, and while we have no orders to confer, we do have a candidate in waiting who will be receiving his Royal Arch degrees over the next few months, and if all goes well he’ll be able to serve as our inspection candidate. Inspection practice schedules are forthcoming so keep an eye on the website, and I’ll be sure to keep you informed. 

Deo duce, ferro comitante,

Brandon Mullins, Commander 

Commander's Comments | Apr 2012

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Dear Sir Knights,

This will be my last letter to you as your Commander.The past two years have flown by.It has been quite a memorable experience.Thank you for the opportunity to serve you! In May, if he is elected, I will yield this post to my friend and constant companion, Brandon Mullins. This Commandery has not seen a young Sir Knight so enthusiastic for our Order and Templary in general.It will surely be a treat to place our beauceant and our ranks in his care.

I will also remind you that your new Commander will need assistance on August 17th for our Commandary Inspection.Come out with your lady and support our efforts.

Also, please note on the fifth Thursday or 29th of March the Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Milan York Rite groups will be converging at Ypsilanti Masonic Temple at 7 p.m. for discussions on consolidating our bodies into one strong York Rite Body.If you have questions please contact Brandon or I.

Finally, its my sad duty to inform you of the passing of Right Eminent Sir Knight William Skrepnek, Past Grand Commander of Michigan on 21 March 2012.Please keep his widow, Lady Doris in your prayers.Bill was also a Past Grand Master of Michigan, and Past Most Illustrious Grand Master of Royal and Select Masons of Michigan.He was also trumpeted a 33 degree, Sovereign Grand Inspector General in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite.I had the pleasure of attending a number of Masonic events around the state with Bill. His cheerful demeanor will be sorely missed.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Corey F. Curtiss, PEC

Commander

Ann Arbor Commandery #13

Commander's Comments | Mar 2012

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Sir Knights,

I hope this communication finds you and your family well.Please send along prayer requests or any other updates to commander@aayorkrite.org or 734-506-8272 or to our Recorder or Prelate.

This Chivalric year almost draws to a close as does my two year reign as Commander.I am looking forward to turning the saddle over to Sir Knight Brandon Mullins who has exceptional passion for Templar Masonry and will do many great things in his tenure as Commander of our Commandery.

To keep you up to speed, in the past months I have had the pleasure of representing our Commandary at a number of Battalion events and was even able to take a few parts in a number of the ceremonies down in Samaria a few weeks ago.We are also deep into planning our upcoming Commandery Inspection which has been proposed for August 18 before the State Commandary Conclave this year. The outgoing and incoming Commanders of our sister Commandery in Ypsilanti are even now hard at working planning this spectacular event so we hope to see you there.Would you like to take a part?Please let us know soon, before your favorite part is taken!

Our new members Ken Landstrom and Jim Piper, have been quite active and even have been visiting other Commanderies.

In addition, we will be sending a contingent to the Detroit Masonic Temple and Detroit Commandery #1 to watch the portrayal of the Order of the Temple in full chain mail and period regalia by a visiting Preceptory. Please mark your calendars for March 24th and get your reservations in as this is sure to be a spectacular event. You can find more information in the Michigan insert of the current edition of the Knight Templar magazine which should be hitting your mailboxes now.

We also have handsome certificates commemorating your Knighting if you might not have received them in previous years.We have limited quantities of both an old edition and the larger and colorful new edition for $15.Please contact Excellent Prelate, Brandon Mullins at prelate@aayorkrite.org to order them and his lovely lady Puja will write your name and information in a beautiful fashion.

Our next regular conclave and dinner will take place 19 March 2012 at Calvary Methodist Church.We hope to see you there! Please let us know if you need a ride!

Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam,

Corey F. Curtiss, PEC

Commander

Commander's Comments | Sep 2011

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Sir Knights and Friends:

Ann Arbor Commandery in conjunction with Ypsilanti Commandery were holding their Joint Inspection on Sat. August 27th at the Ypsilanti Masonic Temple. They have been working hard, as a group to prepare for this event.

Joseph Thompson for Ypsilanti Commandery was to be the Inspection Candidate for this event.

Ann Arbor Commandery still has two candidates in waiting for the Order of the Temple and there are also others in waiting to begin their journey into the Orders. Ann Arbor Commandery has work which needs to be accomplished this fall.

The Grand Commandery Grand Conclave was conducted in a smooth and efficient manner by the Right Eminent Grand Commander Loren A. Winn and his officer core. 

Roy A. Ickes of Mt. Clemens Commandery was elected to serve this coming year as our Right Eminent Grand Commander.

Our good friend and frequent visitor Donald Trumbull of Howell Commandery was elected to begin his travels in the Grand Commandery Line by being elected to serve as Junior Grand Warden.

Joseph Medved of Lexington Commandery received the Grand Encampment Knight Templar Cross of Honor.

Commander's Comments | Jul 2011

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Sir Knights and Friends:

It was a great time that we had on Thursday, June 9th when we were able to put on the Red Cross Degree and the Short Form Order of Malta and Mediterranean Pass. These were both Companions of Ypsilanti York Rite. 

On Wednesday, June 15th we again put on the Red Cross Degree and the Short Form Order of Malta and Mediterranean Pass. Both of these Companions were from the Ann Arbor York Rite. 

One of the candidates will receive his Order of the Temple just prior to the Inspection of Saturday morning August 27th. Probably August 25th. One will be at the Inspection and the other two will probably be conferred in the month of September.

It will be great to see so much work being performed by both of the Commandery’s. For all Christian Masons the Order of the Temple is a must see and a must participate in. It is a participatory Order and one of the most beautiful, impressive and memorable in Masonry.

Plan on attending the Inspection on Saturday, August 27th at 9 am. The luncheon will follow at approximately 12 noon. 

What are you doing on Mon. July 4th? How about joining the Northville Masonic Family for a Breakfast, 6 – 10 am. Bring your family and friends. At 10 am you could join them by either observing or marching in the Parade. The uniform for the KT’s for the parade is Black Slacks, White Shirt, Black shoes and socks, with sword. 

May you find peace and happiness in all of your endeavors.

Happy and safe 4th of July in the celebration of our Independence and Freedom.

Paul Howell, PC, KTCH, KCT

Commander's Comments | Jun 2011

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Sir Knights and Friends:

How great it is to be able to write and tell you of the many upcoming activities of your Commandery. On May 26th it was our intent to be in Ypsilanti to assist them in putting on the Orders of Red Cross and Malta. This will be of great value and assistance to us as it is a pleasure to be able to have to put on those Orders for petitioners that we currently have for Ann Arbor.

Northville will be having a parade on July 4th. Stepping off at 10 am. Wouldn’t you enjoy marching with the Commandery portion of the parade? Summer uniform, if you have it. If not then black slacks, white shirt, chapeau and sword. Go early and enjoy a breakfast at the Temple which begins at 8 am. The Grand Conclave will be on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 19th & 20th. The pass in review will be on the afternoon of the 20th. Our Annual Inspection will be a joint Inspection with Ypsilanti Commandery, again this year, as it was last year. We will begin at 9 am, therefore, everyone participating should be there not later than 8:30. A luncheon will follow the formal Inspection. Ladies and guests are encouraged to be in attendance for the Luncheon. We will be holding joint rehearsals in preparing for this very Special event. Please watch for more details and then be in attendance, even if you do not have a major part we need people to march and otherwise be of assistance We need YOU! 

Congratulations to our Recorder, SK Arthur W. Davidge on his well-deserved honor of being named 2011 Michigan Mason of the Year.

God Bless each of you.

Paul Howell, KYCH, PC

Commander's Comments | Apr 2011

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Distinguished Brethren,

WB Andrew Hammer, PM (the junior past master of George Washington’s lodge in Alexandria, VA) the author of the book Observing the Craft, will be appearing as the guest speaker at my St. John’s event (Hosted by my lodge Milan #323 and York Chapter #150) on Saturday June 11, 2011at 6:30 p.m. The location will be set within the week (somewhere in the Ann Arbor/Chelsea, MI area) and I will be sure to send out an invitation to all of you too. This will include a formal dinner, bar, festive board/table lodge festivities, and of course a dynamic speaker and lively discussion and a special gift.

Unfortunately, this date also coincides with the Michigan CoD (AASR) up near Traverse City and also the All Degree Day Outdoors for Chapter in Paw Paw, but it was the only weekend he was available this near to this Feast of St. John.

We are already planning a prestigious event for 2012 and will do our best to avoid those conflicts. Please let me know if you or someone you know is interested in any event.

Fraternally Yours,

Corey F. Curtiss

Worshipful Master, Milan Lodge 323, F&AM

High Priest, York Chapter #150, RAM

Commander, Ann Arbor #13, KT

Commander's Comments | Mar 2011

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Order of the Red Cross

As the first step in a Commandery of Knights Templar, The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross continues the story of the Royal Arch and deals with a period in Jewish history at the time of the reurn of the Jews from capitivity and the efforts to rebuild the Temple of their God in Jerusalem. The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, peculiar to America, teaches the lessons of the triumph of TRUTH.

Order of Knight of Malta

The second Order in the Commandery is the Knight of Malta with its pass degree of Knight of St. Paul or the Mediterranean Pass. This Order is the first Christian Order encountered by the candidate. The ritual is based historically upon one of the old Order of the Crusades. In this order you are taught to be zealous and vigilant for the Order of Knighthood.

Order of the Temple

This is the third and most impressive Order of the Commandery and is wholly Christian. The Templar tradition derives from the Society of the same name which played so important a part in the Crusades of the Middle Ages. Beautiful lessons of the death and ascension of our Saviour are inculcated and the candidate is received into full fellowship, in the most solemn manner. This order will strengthen you in your quest for your growth in the Christian Religion and in your work and support for furthering the tenets of Brotherly Love and Friendship.

K.Y.C.H.

The K.Y.C.H., Knight York Cross of Honour is an honor that can be bestowed upon a York Rite Mason for service in and to the Fraternity. He must have served as the leader of his Lodge, Chapter, Council and Commandery and been nominated by his peers and elected to receive this distinction.

Commander's Comments | Feb 2011

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I trust that Blue Lodge and Council Installation season went well (and your Holidays and family time too). I look forward to your attendance at our upcoming Ann Arbor Joint York Rite (AAJYR) meeting on Monday, February 21. We are going to start practicing our 10 man opening and closing and thinking about Inspection season which is just around the corner. We will also have a discussion about our calendar for the next 12-15 months and I welcome suggestions for activities that our membership might enjoy or that could bring service to the community and visibility to our Valiant Order. If you perchance, cannot attend and would like to contribute an idea please email me at cfcurtiss@yahoo.com or call me at 734-660-0241.

I encourage you in the interim between AAJYR meetings to regularly attend communications of the Blue Lodge(s) in your area and through the means of common social intercourse strike up a conversation about the York Rite of Masonry and particularly our Knights Templar. Make your brothers aware of the high regard you hold for the Order and your zeal for our institution. Perhaps they might be interested in joining with us in our noble works. Always have ready petitions to join the York Rite Bodies for those who are interested. Avoid badgering those that might not be receptive right now but let yourself be an example of the good work and superior fellowship we enjoy in the York Rite and more especially the Knights Templar. Thank you for your efforts on behalf of our Order. Please pray for our sick, dearly departed, those who are traveling, and men and women in uniform locally and overseas, both civil servants and those in the armed forces. If you’re on your way or already in a warmer place for the next few weeks I hope you enjoy the weather and your rest and recuperation; we look forward to welcoming you home in the Spring.

Corey Curtiss, EC

Commander's Comments | Jan 2011

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Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc.

The Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc. is a charitable foundation dedicated to helping those who face loss of sight due top the need for surgical treatment and to provide funds for research in during diseases of the eye. (Just this past spring the foundation gave a research grant of $35,000 to a doctor at the Kellogg Eye Center.)

Since its founding in 1956, the Foundation has handled over 82,000 cases, representing more than $102 million. Research grants totaling over $9.6 million have been made to researchers working in the field of pediatric ophthalmology or development biology.

Who We Help!

The Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc. provides assistance to U.S. citizens who face loss of sight due to the need for surgical treatment without regard to race, color, creed, age, sex or national origin provided they are unable to pay or receive adequate assistance from current government agencies or similar sources. This includes the correction of strabismus (cross-eyes) in children up to the age of 16 years.

How We Help!

Qualified persons are provided with the cost of treatment, surgery, and hospitalization in a place of their own choosing and by physicians of their own< choice.

The Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc. is also a co-sponsor of the EyeCare American Seniors EyeCare Program, a public service of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc.

1000 East State Parkway, Suite 1

Schaumburg, IL 60173

www.knightstemplar.org/ktef

Contributions are tax deductible under Section 501© 3 of the Internal Revenue Code.