History of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement
On December 15, 1898, Lurana White and two companions traveled to Graymoor to look after the abandoned chapel of St. John in the Wilderness. Every year, the Friars and Sisters celebrate December 15th as Foundation Day. The communities began to grow very slowly in the Episcopal Church. Father Wattson joined Sister Lurana at Graymoor in the Spring of 1899, after making his novitiate with the Holy Cross Fathers in Maryland. He professed his vows as a Friar of the Atonement in June 1899, and took as his religious name Paul James Francis.
As time developed, the founders became more convinced that one of their major ministries was to pray and work for Christian Unity. By 1908, Father Wattson, along with a friend from England, the Reverend Spencer Jones, established the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity. Today it is known as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The Father Founder would speak about the Octave in later years and say that "the first fruits of the Octave was the acceptance of the Society into the Roman Catholic Church" in 1909.
In 1910, with the building of the railroad along the Hudson River, men began to come looking for shelter. Father Paul offered the only place available, a chicken coop. The Founder always referred to these men as Brother Christophers —Christ Bearers. The small chicken coop turned into St. Christopher’s Inn. The Inn still serves Brother Christophers today.
As the number of Friars increased, they were sent out to the "missions," first to Texas and then to British Columbia. It was not until 1949 that the Friars first went to serve the people in Japan. Shortly afterwards, they opened the friary in Rome, Italy. In the late 1950s, they opened their first friary in England. In the 1960s, the Friars went to Brazil and Jamaica, West Indies. Today, the Friars serve in parishes in the United States, Canada, and England. They also serve in Ecumenical Ministry in the United States, Canada, England, Japan, and Italy. Friars serve in Social Ministry in the United States, Canada, England, and Japan. The Friars invite interested men to become members of their community.
If you would like additional information about our history, please visit the Archives page.