Servant of God Father Paul Wattson, SA, Apostle of Christian Unity and charity
Father Paul was born on January 16, 1863 in Millington, Maryland, to Rev. Joseph Wattson and Mary Electa Wattson, and baptized Lewis Thomas Wattson. He was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1886. In 1898, in collaboration with an Episcopal sister, Lurana White, he helped to found the Society of the Atonement, taking vows of Franciscan poverty, obedience and chastity at Graymoor in Garrison, NY, with the mission of promoting Christian unity.
In 1899, the abandoned desecrated chapel of St. John’s in the Wilderness was found, cleaned and restored by three pious Anglican women inspired by the story of St. Francis restoring the Church of San Damiano. The women convince the Episcopal diocese in New York to rededicate the chapel. These women acquire the chapel and land which is named Graymoor. Sister Lurana is invited to make the foundation for the Society of the Atonement there with Father Paul. Father Paul took Possession of the Graymoor Property on June 14, 1900, the Feast of Corpus Christi. He fashioned a heavy rough cross out of a tall cedar tree at the foot of the mountain and carries it to the summit. The Cross still stands for pilgrims to pray before.
In 1908, Father Paul initiated the Church Unity Octave believing that a time set aside for prayer and seminars would hasten Christian unity. Advocates of corporate reunion between the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, he and Mother Lurana White made a decision to become Roman Catholics. In 1909, the Society of the Atonement became the first religious community of Christians to be received corporately into the Roman Catholic Church since the Reformation. Father Paul was ordained a Catholic priest by Archbishop John M. Farley in 1910.
Among his many achievements, Father Paul founded St. Christopher’s Inn, a refuge for homeless men. He published The Lamp, a monthly magazine devoted to Christian unity and the missions; he produced “The Ave Maria Hour”, a radio program that broadcasted stories about the life of Christ and the lives of the Saints around the world for several decades. In 1903 he founded an organization, the Union-That-Nothing-Be-Lost, to disperse donations to other charitable organizations. He also co-founded the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and was instrumental in helping to launch the Catholic Medical Mission Board. Today, the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement continue his work on three continents.
Father Paul was a builder of bridges with outstanding Christian virtues. He was a true Franciscan who loved the poor. He also loved the supreme gift God gave us in atonement, his only Son.
The Official Site of the Father Paul of Graymoor Guild