Gourgas Chapter Rose Croix
2020-2021 Annual Report
To the Valley of Chicago,
When asked about the experience of taking the mantle of presiding officer in the midst of a global pandemic, I must confess that keeping the Valley held together as our way of life became a memory has been one of the greatest challenges of my life. Never in our lifetime has the fraternity faced a challenge of this scale, and decades of tradition and time-tested strategies could not inform us on how to wield the gavel when the lodge room must stay empty. I was installed in the parking lot to a socially distanced crowd of twelve people, and charged with the support and care of three thousand Brothers who I would not see in-person until ‘someday.’
At the darkest peak of the shutdown, I found solace in the stories of our Chapter’s namesake, Sovereign Grand Commander J.J.J Gourgas. Brother Gourgas is famed as the ‘preserver’ of the Scottish Rite, having maintained its chartered operations in secrecy for fourteen years as lodges were shuttered by Anti-Masonic panic. One night after midnight as I was seeking virtual programs and ways to keep the Masonic bonds intact when we couldn’t leave our homes, I admit I once asked out loud if Brother Gourgas had any advice for a Knight of Rose Croix in my position. I’m rather grateful to say I didn’t hear a response, but our year in darkness has reminded us all what Brother Gourgas endured to keep the torch embers lit and what he was fighting to preserve for those who came after him.
As we finally reopen, be assured that those hundreds of quiet nights were well-spent as we pursued our mission in any way we safely could. Our Almoner team rolled up their sleeves and led an expansive aid program for our membership during the initial loss of income and safety we faced, giving tens of thousands of dollars to keep our Brothers’ bills paid and ensured presents under the Christmas tree for their children. When faced with how to utilize budgets that went unused without live events, our Sovereign Prince Chad Lacek tirelessly went to work on holiday gift boxes to ensure that every last cent went to our membership.
As loneliness crept in, we found outlets for fellowship. Modern technology allowed us to not only conduct virtual education and social discussions, but to bring in experts and orators from across the world. This education model has proven itself to be a permanent feature of the Valley of Chicago that will continue after reopening, and a members-only database is being formed for on-demand Masonic education tailored to our members. Weekly surveys and social media allowed us to analyze what our members sought from the Valley, and occasionally incite a little of the laughter that once filled our Grand Hall.
The world has changed since our doors closed. We hope that we have been able to change what was within them for the better in that time since. Committees are forming to address member needs, Reunion departments are being united by the challenge of the grand reopening, and every Brother will have their voice heard.
Whether you’re a Master Mason seeking more light, or you haven’t attended a meeting since we left Dearborn Street, we are here to welcome you home to the Scottish Rite.
Xander ‘Guide’ Sobecki
Most Wise Master
Gourgas Chapter of Rose Croix of Heredom