Monday, April 11, 2011

What is Acacia?

This last weekend saw the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Masonic Youth Foundation Educational Endowment Fund Committee. This group, composed of several Masons, meets once a year to award scholarships provided through generous donations and administered by the PMYF. For the second year in a row the panel has been asked to award scholarships to a group that many may not be aware of - the Acacia Fraternity. I think the reaction of one of the board members sums it up best - "Wait, what's Acacia?" That's a reaction we hear all the time, so, I thought it might be useful to discuss what Acacia is and how it relates to DeMolay.

Acacia is a collegiate Fraternity that pre-dates DeMolay by about 15 years (being founded in 1905.) Originally, the group required the members must already be Freemasons who were enrolled in a college or a university where the Chapter met. At a time when Masonic membership alone was not cheap, this was a very restrictive requirement. The core tenets of the Acacia program were the same as the Masonic fraternity (which would then go on to influence the key precepts of the DeMolay program.) Today, Acacia no longer requires Masonic membership, but remains friendly with Grand Lodges throughout the country, including here in PA. Our fine commonwealth plays host to seven Acacia Chapters - more than any other state! Each Chapter is led by a Venerable Dean, with the rest of the organization runs much like that of any other college fraternity.

Let's take a step back and remember the history of DeMolay for a minute. When DeMolay was founded in 1919 it was restricted to young men aged 16 to 21. That's right, each person could only be a member for five years and then he was out. The group was originally intended for older guys, hence why much of the language of the ceremonies is so strange, especially for our younger members. DeMolay then realized that it needed to expand it's membership so that younger guys could participate in the program. First the age was lowered to 15, then 14, then 13, and finally by the end of the 20th Century, 12. We all know there is a huge difference between a 12 year old and a 21 year old. This has been a continual challenge to us in DeMolay. For an organization that was started with older members in mind, we now find that our most active members are 12 to 15 - age ranges for which the program was never originally conceived! However, the program is effective for teaching these young men leadership skills and it's value cannot be underestimated. 

By now, I'm sure you're very confused as to where I'm going with this. We've meandered through Acacia and then waded through a discussion on the original ages of DeMolay. How do these connect? At some point we have to recognize that the DeMolay program may not be perfect for everybody; most especially for our older members going off to college. As these older DeMolays begin their collegiate careers, I urge them to think carefully before joining any college fraternity, Acacia included. However, the experience and training a young person can receive in a college fraternity can be important for their growth and development. Acacia is uniquely positioned to play a role that DeMolay once tried to fill - that of a group for young men who are crossing that bridge into adulthood. 

If you happen to attend college at a campus that has an Acacia Chapter, I encourage you to check them out. We share some similar heritage and you may just find a program you like. 

You can check out the Acacia national website here.

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony

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