Featured Mason of the Month Stephen Garcia
Chris – Where were you born?
Stephen – Arecibo, Puerto Rico
Chris – What did you do for a living?
Stephen – Cyber Security. I pretty much try and protect systems and users from their worst adversaries: Users themselves, and the occasional hacker
Did Freemasonry have an impact on your career?
Stephen – Not directly but I would say being part of freemasonry and how it helps you shape your behavior and demeanor indirectly helps in that regard
Chris – Who was your role model as a child and why?
Stephen – My parents, two completely different people in how they interpret life and their approach, I find myself being the sum of their parts.
Chris – What is one thing you learned from your mother?
Stephen – Resilience. Things in life might not go your way but you still can make it work
Chris – What do you consider to be your biggest weakness?
Stephen – I would say that stubbornness can be both weakness as well as strength. It’s good to be stubborn to achieve a goal but often one can be stubborn past the point where it is prudent to continue. A change of approach may be necessary and that change can sometimes elude us.
Chris – Can you give us a breakdown of your extensive masonic history?
Stephen – My family on my mother’s side has always been involved in Masonry and the Oddfellows so from an early age the brothers and sisters in the fraternities were like my own family. It was only a matter of time and being of age until my mentor in Masonry, and an old family friend, who now resides in the Lodge Eternal, pulled me in right after my 18th birthday and I petitioned to join. I was scheduled to leave for College shortly so my journey through the degrees took one year each, as the requirement before advancing was to be present at twelve meetings before a proficiency give back. I gave my proficiency for the EA a year after initiation, the same for FC and MM. Plenty of time to study and see life through the lenses of those degrees before advancing; quite the experience. While still in college, I was very active at Melbourne Lodge No. 143. This is where I found a great group of motorcycle riding brothers in the Widows Sons and where I found a love for degree and ceremony work, something that carried over when moving for work to Sarasota and finding myself in Sarasota No. 147. After a couple of years here and wanting to take on a more official role in this Lodge I decided to join as a plural member, not wanting to give up the membership to my home lodge which holds a very special spot in my heart. Since then I’ve joined appendant bodies, continued riding Motorcycles with my brothers, and advanced through the chairs until finding myself humbled to be elected as Worshipful Master of this great Lodge.
Chris – What is your biggest failure in freemasonry, and what did you learn from it?
Stephen – Still learning from it and working on getting it fixed but that would be not getting my proficiency cards. Even though I know by heart most of the ceremonies and work, I’ve never pushed to officially have them recorded in my record with certificates of proficiency. An upcoming personal project to get those cards is in the works
Chris – With so many appendant bodies, committees, and district opportunities, what advice would you give a new made Master Mason that is looking to get more involved in Freemasonry?
Stephen – Everyone has their own pace, abilities, and aspirations but more often than not I would advise to step back and don’t go all in all at once. If involvement is your goal, get involved in something that provides opportunities to learn and grow as a Mason instead of head first into a leadership position. It is necessary to grow for yourself before you are in a position to help others grow. The time that it takes to get there might be different for you and me but in general one needs to know how to follow before one is able to lead. There are a lot of opportunities in Masonry to take on all sorts of roles and to get to very high places and we have a lifetime to do this. We’ve heard this before, Masonry is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. What you learn in the journey is as important if not more than reaching those destinations.
Chris – What people had the biggest impact on your Masonic life and why?
Stephen – A weird answer for this question but I would say it’s those brothers that with their advice unknowingly set you up to do things right. And that includes advice that reminds you to stay humble and pay attention to what really matters.
Chris – What is your greatest success in Freemasonry?
Stephen – To have the honor or sitting in the East at my lodge. Exceedingly humbling and an amazing feeling to be able to lead this lodge and a goal I was dreaming to achieve for a long time.
Chris – What motivates you to keep showing up for Freemasonry?
Stephen – One thing I learned early in my Masonic career: We are eternal apprentices. A brand new Mason or an old timer, there is always something new to learn. Life comes at you in different ways and every bit of freemasonry has something to teach us when life happens. Best of all, your brothers are in this race with you and our life experiences can be used to help each other out.
Chris – What qualities do you think make up a great Worshipful Master?
Stephen –More often than not I’m finding that it is not the decision or what you say as a WM that carries the weight, but how that decision is made or how what needs to be said is said. One can be certain we need to go in this direction regarding a decision and one can also be fully correct in a certain topic that needs to be talked about; however, making the decision in a vacuum or blurt out and being blunt about something is often, if not always, the wrong way to do it. As a Worshipful Master, not all your decisions are popular with everyone and there are times when you need to… “put the foot down”. Being able to step back and formulate the correct words and approach is a must for anyone, especially for someone sitting in the East.
Chris – What do you think are the biggest challenges that Freemasonry faces today?
Stephen – Retention. A daily life for your average man today is a lot different than 20 or 30 years ago, not to mention back in the booming years about 50 years ago. This leads to a need to change how we approach getting those new brothers interested in coming in and then interested and able to stay and grow. We need to be able to foster an environment that works with a generation of men whose work and family demands are vastly different than the Mason of 25+ years
Chris – What are you passionate about outside of Freemasonry these days?
Stephen – I’m finding myself getting really interested in woodworking as of late. It all started with small stuff; a picture frame here, a storage box there, and recently making a couple cabinets for the laundry. Time will tell (read: my wife) if I’m biting off more than I can chew by deciding to redo my entire kitchen myself from scratch building all cabinets myself.
Chris –Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Stephen – I want to focus on getting those proficiency certificates and cards. It’s one thing thinking you got most of the work in your head, the other one is knowing for sure. Lectures are another part that I’m interested in tackling. We always need more lecturers and I would love to be able to serve as such specially after finishing my year in the East and not being in the forefront of the day to day running of the Lodge
Chris – Is there something about Sarasota Lodge No. 147 that you think stands out from other lodges?
Stephen – We are a mixed breed at 147 and I’m not entirely sure how we got to it. We have a great mix of levity with great love for protocol and while we might swing one way or the other at particular times it is great to have fun with my brothers while keeping a high level of proficiency and sharpness in our work.
Chris – If you could step into my shoes, what would you have asked yourself that I didn’t?
Stephen – What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything?