Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A brief history of Advocate Illinois Masonic Health Center

One of the regular Taper readers occasionally sends me links to news articles about the good that Masons have done in the world.

Recently he sent this one about how a young woman from Spain was successfully treated by surgeons at Advocate Illinois Masonic Health Center in Chicago last April.

It's good to hear stories of modern medical technology saving lives.

It wasn't clear to me the relationship between Freemasonry and the hospital, other than the word "Masonic" in their name, so I held off publishing the story until I found out.

Advocate Health Care, the company that owns the hospital and at least nine others, sounds like a great organization. U.S. News & World Report has called them one of the top 50 hospitals in the nation treating heart conditions.

Their website explains their mission, values and philosophy, which mirror Masonic truths, but still, I was curious about the Masonic relationship.
Mission, Values, and Philosophy

Related to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ, Advocate's health and healing ministry began over one hundred years ago. A faith-based mission of caring has been the foundation of our heritage for over one hundred years.


"The mission of Advocate Health Care is to serve the health needs of individuals, families and communities through a wholistic philosophy rooted in our fundamental understanding of human beings as created in the image of God."


Advocate exists to serve. The core values of compassion, equality, excellence, partnership, and stewardship guide our actions as we work together to provide health services to others in our communities.


The care we provide is wholistic. This philosophy means we understand people have physical, emotional and spiritual needs and their relations to God, themselves, their families and society are vital to health and healing. Finally, we believe all people are created in the image of God. All human beings live under God's care and must be treated with dignity and respect.

The mission, values, and philosophy of Advocate are often referred to as the "MVP." By integrating them into every aspect of the organization, these principles have strengthened the foundation of the Advocate culture in which we all work and serve.
I wrote to the public relations director of the hospital to inquire about the Masonic ties.

Yesterday I received the gracious response of Bro. Robert A. Rylowicz, 33°, who sits on the Board of Directors of the hospital and a related foundation.

While I could elaborate, I feel a few paragraphs from CARING COMMUNITY; an historical accounting may help supply you with an answer.


"It was a struggle through the best of times and the worst of times to transform the UNION HOSPITAL into the ILLINOIS MASONIC MEDICAL CENTER of 1897. Beginning modestly when a caring company of men and women, members of a Baptist Sunday School Class, resolved to build a hospital to meet the health needs of their community, the hospital emerged into a major Masonic enterprise dedicated to healing of the ills of humankind.

"When it became obvious that the hospital enterprise involved more than could be managed by members of a well-intentioned Sunday School Class, most of them were Masons or members of the Eastern Star, leaders of the hospital turned to the Masonic Order. It was a fortuitous development since Masons were planning to develop a hospital to provide care for their own, and in 1921 purchased the Union Hospital and named it Illinois Masonic Hospital.

"This book is the story of the years of labor and sacrifice to build one of the major medical centers of the Chicago area. Masons of courage and competence faced the awesome task of raising the millions needed to provide buildings and equipment for an institution that would honor Masonry. When years of the Great Depression threatened the survival of the hospital, men of stature and commitment refused to surrender. Their fortitude and faith saved the institution.

"Through the efforts of innumerable men and women, Illinois Masonic Medical Center emerged from the dark days of Depression, undeterred in its resolve to care, not only for those who could pay for their care, but also for those dependent on Charity. It became known as a caring community of men and women dedicated to the healing arts."

These were the words of Dr. Harold Blake Walker, a Presbyterian minister who sat on the board of Trustees for more than twenty years and was truly an outstanding person. Strangely enough, as a teenager, I read his column in the Sunday Chicago Tribune, and then had the privilege of serving with him on the same board.

Prior to 2000, the Board of Directors saw many areas of concern on the horizon, and through a good deal of filtering out potential partners, voted to sell the hospital to the Advocate Health Care system. What emerged was the MASONIC FAMILY HEALTH FOUNDATION, with approximately 1-3 million dollars to help endow both the hospital and numerous Masonic Charities. And as a further outgrowth of this foundation emerged the Masonic Assistance Program (MAP), whereby we help provide health care to indigent Masons and their families.

As a member of the board of directors, for both the hospital and the foundation, I am proud to continue my service to Masonry, and provide answers to any further questions you may have.

Robert A. Rylowicz, 33°
Thank you, Bro. Ryloqwicz, for providing this interesting look into the history of the hospital.

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  1. Thank you for a short history of this hospital. I was born there more than a few years ago. I just decided to find a history of this once unique institution. I am proud to say I am a Master Mason. Bless you all brothers and sisters.

  2. I know I'm late but this is very interesting. Thank you Brother, for taking the time to gather this information.


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