Masonry is the activity of closely united men who, employing symbolical forms borrowed principally from the mason's trade and from architecture, work for the welfare of mankind, striving morally to ennoble themselves and others, and thereby to bring about a universal league of mankind, which they aspire to exhibit even now on a small scale.
Freemasonry is the oldest fraternal organization in the world. Its mission is to encourage a Way of Life, promote Fellowship, and Practice Universal Benevolence and one's Faith for the Cause of Good.
Through its lessons, charitable work and fellowship amongst its members, Masonry stresses the principles of kindness and consideration at home, honesty in business, courtesy towards others, dependability in one's work, compassion for the less fortunate, and being a good citizen of the world. Masonry recognizes that each man has obligations to his family, his work, his religious beliefs, his community, and himself. These must take priority and Masonry does not interfere with his ability to meet these obligations.
As with anything with its roots in antiquity, a definitive answer as to the specific origins of Freemasonry is not possible. Its traditions, however, can be traced directly to the operative Masons who built the stone cathedrals and castles of the Middle Ages, men of exceptional character and high ideals.
Modern Freemasonry was founded in England in June 1717 when four lodges banded together to form the first Grand Lodge. From Britain, it spread over much of the world, playing a significant role in our culture and civilization.
While Charity is considered one of the cornerstones of Freemasonry, Masonry is first and foremost a fraternity; it is neither a service nor social club, nor is it a benevolent society; fund-raising for particular purposes is not its all-consuming goal. Throughout North America, however, Masonry and its Concordant Bodies support charitable causes in an amount exceeding half-a-billion dollars annually.
Through financial support of The Masonic Foundation of Ontario, a public foundation registered with the Canada Revenue Agency, Masons support various causes affecting the community, including hearing research, a bursary program for university and college students, and alcohol and drug awareness programs in elementary and high schools. University Lodge's charitable mission is to promote higher education by funding and distributing bursaries to desrving young scholars pursuing studies in the fields of cancer research, music, and others. Masonry also places particular emphasis on supporting the Canadian Blood Services Donor Program; Ontario Masons make or sponsor approximately 35,000 donations annually.