Franciscan Friars of the Atonement

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(SA, Official Catholic Directory #0530); officially known as the Society of the Atonement (Societas Adunationis, TOR), and popularly known as Graymoor or Atonement friars; a branch of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Assisi, founded in 1898 by Lewis Thomas wattson (Father Paul, SA). The Atonement friars are comprised of priests and brothers who are engaged in social, ecumenical, and pastoral ministries in the United States, Canada, England, Italy, and Japan.

Foundation. Wattson, who, as an Episcopalian clergyman, held pastorates in Kingston, New York, and Omaha, Nebraska, wished to begin "a preaching order like the Paulists," based on the ideas of St. Francis, especially in the observance of religious poverty. On July 9, 1893, while reading from St. Paul, he found the word "atonement" and chose it as the name for his proposed community. Several years later he met Lurana Mary White (18701935), who, as Mother Lurana, SA, subsequently founded the franciscan sisters of the Atonement. On Oct. 7, 1898, they pledged themselves to God to establish the Society of the Atonement.

The foundation was made that December when Mother Lurana went to Graymoor. Father Paul arrived the following October and spent the first winter in an abandoned paint shack. In 1900 the first small building was erected on the friars' property, the Mount of the Atonement. For the next several years the two communities struggled to survive against the threats posed by paucity of numbers, poverty, and the ostracism by their fellow Anglicans.

On Oct. 30, 1909, in the sisters' chapel at Graymoor, Father Paul, Mother Lurana, and 15 followers were received into the Catholic Church. Permission for this singular event was granted by Pius X through the apostolic delegate to the United States, Diomede Falconi, OFM. Shortly after, the group was received into the Franciscan order. Father Paul was ordained on July 16, 1910, at St. Joseph's Seminary, Yonkers, New York, by Abp. John Farley of New York. During the next 30 years, Father Paul's efforts were expended for the Church, for Graymoor, and for Christian unity.

In 1951 the friars received their decretum laudis from the Holy See; the decree of final approbation was granted in 1960. The constitutions agree substantially with those of the Friars Minor, with whom the Graymoor friars have a decree of aggregation (1932). The priests and clerics recite the Divine Office in choir each day. All members wear the grayish-brown habit fastened at the waist by a cord to which is attached the Franciscan rosary of the Joys of Our Lady; and a crucifix is worn about the neck. The motto of the community is "All for Christ and the Salvation of Men."

Chair of Unity Octave. In 1908 Father Paul instituted the Chair of Unity Octave, a prayer crusade for religious unity from January 18 to 25. Pius X approved the practice in 1909; in 1916 Benedict XV extended it to the universal Church. Pius XII, in a letter (Nov. 1, 1957) urged the octave's observance to be spread as widely as possible. In 1959 John XXIII recommended it to all the faithful. The U.S. hierarchy in 1921 agreed to observe the octave in each diocese; this resolution was renewed in 1957 at the annual bishops' meeting in Washington, D.C.

Other Activities. Graymoor friars direct St. Christopher's Inn at Graymoor (opened in 1909), a hospice for homeless and jobless men. They are engaged in domestic and overseas missionary work, parish administration, chaplaincies, pastoral outreach, campus ministries, retreats, and spiritual direction. Many friars work with the homeless, HIV/AIDS patients, people seeking recovery from alcoholism and substance abuse. From 1903 to 1973, the society published the Lamp, a monthly periodical devoted to Christian unity and the missions. Between the years 1935 and 1969, the Atonement friars produced the Ave Maria Hour, a transcribed radio program on the lives of saints.

In 1949 the Atonement friars established their first overseas mission in the diocese of Yokohoma, Japan. This was followed by the establishment of a community in Rome and England. At the start of the 21st century, the friars operate parishes in the United States, Canada, and England; they have communities in the United States, Canada, England, Japan, and Italy. The motherhouse is in Graymoor, Garrison, New York.

Bibliography: d. gannon, Father Paul of Graymoor (New York 1951). t. cranny, Father Paul: Apostle of Unity (Peekskill, N.Y. 1955). e. f. hanahoe, ed., One Fold (Garrison, N.Y. 1959).

[t. cranny/eds.]

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Franciscan Friars of the Atonement

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