Although the Shrine – The Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine – was founded in New York City in 1872 on the twin principles of Fellowship and Fun and the organization remains dedicated to wholesome family fun for its members and the communities in which it functions – the Shrine is about a great deal more than that.

The first of a network of 22 specialty hospitals for children in the U.S., Canada and Mexico was established by the Shrine in Shreveport, LA, in 1922, the Golden Anniversary of the Shrine’s founding. The hospitals provide specialized care for orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries and cleft lip and palate. All services are provided at no charge and eligibility for care is not based on financial need or relationship to a Shriner.

To date, Shriners Hospitals for Children have provided specialized care to more than 850,000 patients. The more than 400,000 members of Shrine temples throughout North America, their families and friends and the numerous fund-raising events, both local and national in scope, have provided all the funding since the inception of the hospital network.

A cornerstone of the care provided at Shriners Hospitals for Children is the concept of “family-centered care,” which stresses that while medicine “might heal the child’s body, tending to the child’s sense of well-being is equally important.” Parents and siblings are engaged in all aspects of patient care, both in the hospital and at home. For more information, visit the hospital’s Web site:

The Shrine was established as a less demanding fraternal gathering for members of the order of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons, the lodges of Freemasonry, one of the world’s oldest and largest fraternal organizations.

Freemasonry began about 800 years ago. In its operative form it lasted nearly 400 years, while Masons built hundreds of Gothic structures in western Europe. The organization’s literature proclaims that “During the Cathedral Age, Masons formed themselves in workmen’s Guilds; each Guild forming a Lodge with regular officers and with three degrees of Membership. The first group were apprentices or bearers of burdens, the second were craftsmen or skilled workmen on the Temples, and the third were Masters or superintendents of the structures being built.

Each Guild member had to develop certain proficiencies in his work to advance to a higher status, and during this advancement each member was also taught certain attributes of moral conduct. It was these Guild Lodges which actually gave birth to the modern Masonic Lodges and present-day Freemasonry.”

A worker was a Freemason because he was not born a slave, he was free to travel in foreign countries and work where he would. Guild Masons actually built the Gothic Cathedrals. Following the decline of Gothic construction, in the 17th Century, membership in the lodges was broadened by the acceptance of “men of high moral Character” even though these men were not members of the builder’s trade.

Masonic lodges have become fully integrated into the fabric of the communities in which they are located and each is engaged in all sorts of philanthropic endeavors. While there is no overarching credo, the Freemasons explain that their fraternity is committed to “kindness in the home; honesty in business; courtesy toward others; dependability in one’s work; compassion for the unfortunate; resistance to evil; help for the weak; concern for good government; support for public education; and above all, a life-practicing reverence for God and love of fellow man “

Masonry is in large part about good works, and the Shriners have elevated that purpose through their hospital network, to a specific and unique level of service. That such service continues to be supported through fun and fellowship fulfills the vision of the founders, back in post-Civil War New York.

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