Celebrating 120 Years of Service
1898 - 2018
The Society of the Atonement, comprised of both the Friars of the Atonement and the Sisters of the Atonement, was founded by Servant of God Father Paul Wattson, SA, and Mother Lurana White, SA in 1898 so that all might be one.
A HISTORY OF SERVING THOSE IN NEED
Since the community’s early days at the end of the 19th century, the Friars have been committed to At-One-Ment, bringing unity to a broken world. The charism of the order is apparent throughout its history – one that spans the 20th century and covers many parishes, ministries, and continents.
First meeting of Fr. Lewis Wattson and Sr. Lurana White, in Warwick, New York, after years of corresponding. Both Episcopalian, they were interested in founding a religious order in the Franciscan tradition dedicated to reuniting the Anglican Church with the Holy See. During this three day retreat, they were convinced that God wanted them to jointly found the Society of the Atonement
Covenant Day. Fr. Wattson and Sr. Lurana entered into covenant to found the Society of the Atonement. On this day, Sr. Lurana told Fr. Wattson of a letter she had received mentioning Graymoor and the possibility of it being a site for a religious congregation.
Fr. Wattson visited Graymoor for the first time. Later it was reported “his heart was captivated completely by the beauty of the place God had chosen for the future home of the Friars and Sisters of the Atonement.”
Foundation Day. Sr. Lurana arrived at Dimond House, just outside of Graymoor, to start the foundation of the Society of the Atonement
Fr. Wattson visited Graymoor a second time and again in March.
Cornerstone of St. Francis Convent laid.
Fr. Wattson moved permanently to Graymoor and called it “The Mount of Atonement.” He lived in a paint shack, which he called “The Palace of Lady Poverty.”
Fr. Wattson was clothed in the habit of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement.
First parcels of property of the Mount of Atonement deeded to the Society of the Atonement.
Fr. Wattson erected the Corpus Christi Cross and carried it on his shoulders to the top of the mountain.
Brothers Christopher named. Fr. Paul later said that it was the Sisters who first gave wayfarers and derelicts, travelling what is now U.S. Route 9, seeking food and shelter, the name “Brothers Christopher.”
Fr. Wattson professed vows as a Franciscan Friar of the Atonement, taking the name Paul James. From then on he was referred to as Fr. Paul. Several weeks later he received permission to add Francis to his name. Fr. Paul considered his profession day “the foundation of the Society of the Atonement.”
The ground was broken for the building of St. Paul’s Friary at Graymoor.
Sr. Lurana professed vows as a Franciscan Sister of the Atonement. From then on she was referred to as Mother Lurana.
Fr. Paul officially committed the Society of the Atonement to its vocation of Christian unity. In a sermon to the community at Graymoor, he declared the Holy See as “the divinely constituted center of a reunited Christendom.” With this, the Society’s acceptance within the Episcopal Church declined.
Fr. Paul and Mother Lurana initiated devotion to the Blessed Mother and invoked her by the title “Our Lady of the Atonement” focusing on Mary at the foot of the Cross when Christ made her the mother of all humanity, and emphasized her work for unity and her intercession on behalf of all people with God, in Christ.
The Lamp magazine was first published. Through The Lamp, Fr. Paul ardently and eloquently advocated his message of Christian unity and raised millions of dollars for overseas and domestic missions. It ceased publication in 1974.
The idea for the Union that Nothing Be Lost formulated. That morning Fr. Paul awoke gripped with the words, “gather up the fragments so that nothing be lost.” He reasoned that if the time, talent, money and opportunity, which people wasted on superfluities and luxuries, were rescued from those “fragments,” a huge army of missionaries could be supported to spread God’s kingdom everywhere. Seven years later, the UNBL was officially established with the donation of John Reid, referred to as the “Miser of Waterbury” (see December 21, 1911).
First Observance of the Church Unity Octave. Created by Fr. Paul, and now known as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, these eight days are set aside for prayer, Masses, sermons, conferences, and the dissemination of literature dedicated to the unity of Christians.
First St. Christopher’s Inn built. After visiting Washington, D.C., where he saw a photograph of Abraham Lincoln’s cabin, Fr. Paul renovated a newly-built chicken house to accommodate the homeless men who found their way to Graymoor.
St. Paul’s Friary opened.
Reception into the Catholic Church. In August, Fr. Paul asked Pope Pius X (later Pope Saint Pius X, see May 1954) to accept the Society into the Catholic Church. On October 7, confirmation was received that “His Holiness is much gratified to learn of your resolution. . .with regard to your Community there will be no objection to its continuing in the same way, even after its union. . .” On October 30, Fr. Paul, Mother Lurana, and fifteen other members of the community made their profession of faith to the Catholic Church. As the New York Times reported at the time, “such a transference is absolutely without precedence”: the Society of the Atonement was the first order to be corporately received by the Holy See since the Reformation.
Fr. Paul was ordained a Catholic priest in the Chapel of St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, Yonkers, by Archbishop Farley, of New York.
The cornerstone of St. Francis Chapel laid. Construction was almost completed by the end of the year, the first Mass was said on January 12, 1912, and the chapel was dedicated on January 18, 1912.
John Reid (see December 21, 1904) owned a forty-five acre farm near Waterbury, Connecticut, lived on 50 cents a day, and gave what he saved to charity. His donation of $5,200 to Fr. Paul in December 1911 established the Union that Nothing Be Lost. By the time Fr. Paul died in 1940, the UNBL was recognized as one of the greater missionary associations of the Catholic world. Today, the Friars continue to disburse funds to missions and those in need throughout the world through the UNBL..
Perpetual Novena to St. Anthony began at Graymoor.. Around this time, Fr. Paul and another brother placed a statue of St. Anthony in St. Francis Chapel. As he stepped back to admire it, a Brother Christopher handed Fr. Paul a letter from a woman seeking prayers to St. Anthony for her desperately ill baby. They immediately prayed and placed the letter at the foot of the statue. A few weeks later, the woman wrote back, enclosing a five dollar donation, saying her child had miraculously recovered. From that time on, petitions kept coming to Graymoor and the Perpetual Novena to St. Anthony, begun every Tuesday, was started.
Inception of the Catholic Medical Mission Board. When Dr. Paluel Flagg shared his plans to send trained physicians, medicine, supplies, and missionaries to the developing world, Fr. Paul offered help with fundraising and publicity. Dr. Margaret Lamont, the winner of an essay contest in The Lamp, became the first medical volunteer sent by the CMMB to China in 1914.
St. Anthony Industrial Farm blessed at Graymoor. Fr. Paul founded the farm with the intention of making the Society of Atonement self-supporting so that more help could be offered to others.
The Union that Nothing Be Lost (see December 21, 1904 and 1911) was incorporated under the laws of the State of New York. Fr. Paul designated the fourth week of Lent as “Self-Denial Week
The Title and Feast of Our Lady of the Atonement was approved by Pope Benedict XV (see July 21, 1901). In 1919, Fr. Paul had appealed to the Holy Father for Apostolic recognition to the Graymoor custom of invoking the Mother of Christ under the title of Our Lady of Atonement. The feast day of Our Lady of the Atonement is July 9.
The Friars started their first missionary outreach venture— in Hereford, Texas.
Fr. Paul announced the construction of a new St. Christopher’s Inn to replace the original log house built in 1909. The barrack-type building was formerly used by soldiers at Camp Merrick, New Jersey. The parts arrived by December and the foundation was dug that month.
Beginnings of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. At the request of the Rev. George Calvassy (later a bishop) of the Greek Byzantine Catholic Church, Msgr. Richard Barry-Doyle, an Irish chaplain serving British troops in Constantinople during World War I, met with Fr. Paul who mapped out a plan to raise funds for Near East humanitarian relief. In August 1924, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association was incorporated. In 1926, Pope Pius XI united permanently into one organization and under one administration all of the of American Catholic associations working for assistance to Russia and other areas of the Near East. This new pontifical organization was called the “Catholic Near East Welfare Association” (CNEWA) and placed under the direction of the archbishop of New York. Fr. Paul served as vice president and remained on its board for many years.
Ground was broken for the National Shrine of St. Anthony. It was Fr. Paul’s dream to build a great church in honor of St. Anthony at the summit of the Holy Mountain. In his sermon, he “proclaimed St. Anthony of Padua to be the greatest of the sons of St. Francis. . . and great procurator of the Atonement Friars.” Never completed, Fr. Paul’s vision found partial fulfilment in the St. Anthony Shrine erected in 1959 (see Fall 1959).
Beginnings of Graymoor Book & Gift Center. Around this time, a tertiary brother set up a table outside of Little Flower Memorial Hall with religious articles for pilgrims and visitors to Graymoor. During the 1930s, the display was moved to the front porch of St. Paul’s Friary, where a room was used for storage.
The second St. Christopher’s Inn was completed.
During Lent, the marble altar for St. Francis Chapel arrived at Graymoor. It was previously in the Chapel of the Stigmata, Mt. Alverna, Italy, traditionally the site where St. Francis received the stigmata.
The Archbishop of Vancouver invited the Friars to establish a parish to serve Japanese Christians in the city (see May 5, 1942). This was their first Canadian foundation.
The third St. Christopher’s Inn was built in a Spanish-mission style.
Mother Lurana, co-founder of the Society of the Atonement, died at Graymoor. Born April 12, 1870, she shared Fr. Paul’s vision of uniting Christians and helping those less fortunate.
Ave Maria Hour first broadcast. This award-winning program, dramatizing the lives of the Saints, was eventually heard over hundreds of radio stations around the country and the Armed Forces Radio Service for more than thirty years.
New Holy Ghost Water Tower constructed. A new stone structure was built along with a modern water works. The ground level contained Holy Spirit Chapel, which, in 1959, was renovated as a Byzantine rite chapel. During World War II, the top of the tower contained a platform that became a station for the First Army Observation Command for spotting airplanes. Friars were spotters and the tower was considered one of the most “useful units on the eastern seaboard.”
Throughout Fr. Paul’s lifetime, thousands of visitors flocked to the Holy Mountain during the pilgrimage season, which ran from the first Sunday in June through the last Sunday in October. During the summer of 1938, 50,000 pilgrims came to Graymoor to enjoy a “day in the country.” One Sunday in 1939, 7,000 visitors were reported. Into the 1970s excursion buses brought thousands of pilgrims every weekend.
Father Paul James Francis Wattson, co-founder of the Society of the Atonement died. Born January 16, 1863, he was a true apostle of Christian unity and charity, an ardent Franciscan, missionary of At-One-Ment and leader. His life purpose and legacy was work for the realization of Christ’s prayer at the Last Supper: “That all may be one: as thou, Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” (John 17:21)
Outdoor Stations of the Cross erected in front of St. Francis Convent.
The Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, entrusted the pastoral care of the High Point, Kinston, and Lumberton missions to the Friars.
Friars served Japanese interned in British Columbia. As the Canadian government interned thousands of Canadian Japanese living in Vancouver and the coastal region of British Columbia for the duration of World War II, they were accompanied by Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement who ministered to them in Greenwood, British Columbia, for the duration of the war. The Friars continue to serve in British Columbia today.
Friars began a ministry to Mexican-American migrant workers in Hereford, Texas. Following the closing of the Italian Prisoner of War camp in the area, the empty barracks were soon occupied by migrant workers from Mexico seeking work on nearby farms and ranches.
Graymoor Mission Band formed. Fulfilling Fr. Paul’s dream of a ministry preaching to the faithful, it flourished for over twenty years.
The Church of Sant’ Onofrio on Janiculum Hill was entrusted to the Friars. This small but beautiful church constructed in the 15th century, established the Friars Roman foundation. It is the official church of the papal order of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
A gift shop (see 1928 and 1995) was opened in a structure on the eastside of the mountain. Built by Friars, the second story was the gift shop and the first held public restrooms. By 1974, it included a bookstore.
The original Crucifixion scene at the Graymoor entrance was dedicated and blessed.
Friars’ first campus ministry began at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
A large territory of the Diocese of Yokohama, Japan, was entrusted to the Friars. The area had a population of over one million and covered approximately 600 square miles with one parish, St Theresa’s in Shinoyasu, with about 358 parishioners. Ever since then, the Friars have provided parish, educational, ecumenical, and social ministries in Japan. Today, they staff St. Joseph’s Parish in Tsurumi; sponsor St. Joseph’s School, an elementary and high school; St. Clare’s Kindergarten; Kaizuka Hall, for the homeless; and Atonement House, a social center.
St. John’s Seminary was established at Montour Falls, New York. Sold in 1970 to the State of New York, it is now the New York State Academy for Fire Sciences.
Our Lady of the Atonement Pilgrims Chapel at Graymoor was opened. Renamed Pilgrim Hall in the late 1960s and now known as the Chapel of Our Lady of the Atonement, this airplane-hanger shaped building was constructed in a unique pillar-free design, using huge Douglas fir beams across the ceiling for support. The Chapel contains a massive icon of Christ Pantocrator.
Friars established a novitiate at Cumberland, Rhode Island.
Renovated St. Christopher’s Inn was dedicated. This is the present Inn of red brick. Before the renovation, it was a Spanish-Mission style building built in 1933. The new Inn expanded the size by two-thirds.
A museum located next to the gift shop (see August 4, 1946) opened. Among its displays were relics of Pope Saint Pius X, who had been canonized that year. Because of the pope’s special relationship to the community, the Friars had been given “custody of his body” since his beatification in 1951. This meant that they acted as a guard of honor, blessing religious articles, and touching them to the reliquary containing his body. By 1963, the museum was featuring objects of the Society’s early days including Fr. Paul’s original habit. It ceased operation around 1967
First reception of SA candidates in Japan.
Friars’ house at Waverly Place, New York City, was dedicated. Located at 138 Waverly Place, it was the former rectory of St. Joseph’s Parish in Greenwich Village. Friars continue to live here.
St. Anthony’s Shrine was erected at Graymoor. Constructed of granite and fieldstone, it features a marble statue of St. Anthony holding the child Jesus under a baldacchino. The Shrine was refurbished in 2010. Also, in the fall of 1959, a life-sized Calvary scene along with Stations of the Cross, was constructed near the site.
Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston, invited the Friars to establish a chapel in Brockton, Massachusetts. Formally opened in October 1961 near the Westgate Mall, the Chapel of Our Savior is referred to as an Atonement Center where the Friars continue to hear confessions and celebrate Mass daily. The Center is also well-known for its up-to-date and well-stocked gift and bookstore.
Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York, dedicated the St. Pius X building at Graymoor. Intended as a seminary with a four-year unified college program, it currently houses the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center, the Welcome Center, the Graymoor Book & Gift Center, the Office of Mission Support, and other administrative offices.
Matt Talbot Reception Center dedicated at St. Christopher’s Inn. This increased the Inn’s capacity by 75 men. At this time, the Inn was still pursuing its original purpose to help men who were temporarily out of work or “down and out.” During the 1960s, it became apparent to the Friars that the ministry should focus on the rehabilitation of alcoholics. (see 1970s)
Paul Wattson Christian Unity Award was instituted.
The Friars decided to establish a presence in Brazil. In August 1963, Friars and Sister left for Brazil to establish their first mission in that country.
Vatican II’s decree on ecumenism promulgated. By 1966, Christians of all denominations were able to join in the one common “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity,” and the Community began promoting the eight-day observance under this name.
Week of Prayer leaflets were first published jointly by the Friars and the Faith and Order Section of the National Council of Churches with the approval of the U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops.
Friars marked 25 years in hospital ministry. At the request of Archbishop Spellman in 1942, the Friars were asked to supply a chaplain on a temporary basis at the Marine Hospital on Staten Island, New York. This became a permanent assignment. Friars who had served as military chaplains were also involved in hospital ministry. Since the beginning of World War II through Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, Friars have served as chaplains in the United States Armed Forces.
St. Joseph the Worker Church in Richmond, British Columbia, dedicated. Formally established and entrusted to the Friars in 1949, the parish grew steadily and by 1963 it was apparent that larger facilities would be needed.
Graymoor Ecumenical Institute established. Now known as the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute (GEII),it is located at 475 Riverside Drive, in New York City.
During the summer of 1967, Washington, D.C., was the scene of racial unrest, and a rising of black consciousness became more evident. The Friars at Howard University (see June 1947) became involved in housing the homeless and distributing food and clothing. The Friars funded a project called “Project Black Awareness” and the Howard University Newman Center was redone in an Afro motif. At the same time, a close association developed among the denominational ministers, which resulted in the United Ministry at Howard University.
Community Development Department (now the Office of Mission Support) established at Graymoor. It brought together all of the various fundraising operations into a single department. In October 1968, the department began publishing Graymoor Today.
Friars began ecumenical ministry in South Bend, Indiana, in the Diocese of Fort Worth-South Bend. The South Bend Council of Churches felt it would be helpful to have a Catholic on the council’s staff to better relations. Fr. Charles Murphy, SA, was selected for the post—the first time a Catholic priest had ever served in such a capacity. Since then, Friars have served as ecumenical officers in dioceses throughout the United States, Canada, England, and Japan.
Centro Pro Unione, the Friars ecumenical and research center in Rome, was organized.
St. Christopher’s Inn ministry developed. During the 1960s, a referral system was developed both for those suffering from alcoholism and non-alcoholics in need of jobs and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings were introduced. Friars who qualified as certified alcoholism counselors were added to the staff and a ceramic occupational therapy program was introduced. A spiritual program was also developed. As men with dual addictions arrived, the Friars and lay staff met this new challenge.
Graymoor Christian Unity Center was organized. Now known as the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center, it was formed with the purpose of giving and fostering retreats, workshops, and conferences with religious and ecumenical objectives, to promote and administer pilgrimages, and to promote the apostolate of the printed word through the bookstore and religious book fairs.
New Hope Manor established. This substance abuse treatment program for women—the first of its kind in the United States—originated at Graymoor under the guidance of Fr. Dan Egan, SA, who was affectionately known as the “Junkie Priest.”
St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation Center opened at Saranac Lake, New York, under the guidance of the Friars in their former novitiate building. It became an independently governed agency, with full authority succeeding to its Board, in 2008.
Ecumenical Trends first published by the Friars. In 1974, it became the official publication of the Graymoor Ecumenical Institute.
A contract between the Friars and the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, for the care of Christ the Redeemer Parish, in Sterling, was signed. Friars continue to serve here.
First Paul Wattson Lecture was delivered at the Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C.
Friars promulgated a policy on alcohol dependency. With this statement, they “. . . officially recognized alcoholism as a human disease which demands our enlightened concern.”
A Christian-Muslim-Jewish dialogue was held at Graymoor Ecumenical Institute. It is believed that this was the first such dialogue in the United States.
Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches held its semi-annual convention at Graymoor.
Friars established Do Not Fear to Hope ministry at Graymoor after noticing that a growing number of people with HIV/AIDS were coming to 12-step retreats offered by the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center. With monthly support meetings and an annual retreat, it was the first such ministry in the Hudson Valley and perhaps in the United States.
Centro Pro Unione began to offer a three week Summer Course in ecumenism.
St. Christopher Inn’s $5.5 million dollar expansion and renovation that had begun in October 1991 was completed with the dedication on St. Francis Day.
Graymoor Book & Gift Center (see 1928 and August 4, 1946) was moved to its current location on the fourth floor of the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center.
St. Christopher’s Inn established a covenant with the rehabilitation program, House of Hope on the Hill in St. Petersburg, Russia, sharing the Inn’s successful model of addiction treatment so it could be implemented there.
St. Christopher’s Inn received OASAS license for Outpatient Alcoholism Counseling.
Friars assumed pastoral care of St. Joan of Arc Parish, Toronto, Canada, a multi-ethnic English-speaking parish serving 3,000 families.
Centennial Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City celebrated by Cardinal O’Connor, Archbishop of New York, to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Society of the Atonement.
St. Christopher’s Inn received OASAS license for Medically Supervised Ambulatory Substance Abuse Outpatient Treatment Program.
Friars established student writing contest with Toronto’s Catholic Register in order to encourage students to write about ecumenism.
World Trade Center Cross was dedicated at Graymoor., Erected by the Ironworkers of Local 40, NYC, who constructed it of steel girders and ash from the WTC site, the Cross was placed in its permanent location in 2016, north of the Friars’ cemetery, facing southward, toward New York City.
Friars acquired Assisi Friary, their home in Assisi, Italy, to serve as a formation house for novices.
During his ecumenical service at St. Joseph’s Church in New York City, Pope Benedict XVI quoted the words of Fr. Paul— “we will achieve the ‘oneness’ of hope, oneness of faith, and oneness of love that alone will convince the world that Jesus Christ is the one sent by the Father for the salvation of all.” This was a highlight of the pope’s calling to mind the centenary of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which was being celebrated throughout 2008.
Refurbished St. Anthony Shrine was blessed (see Fall 1959).
The Friars blessed their new Labyrinth and Peace Pole at Graymoor. In keeping with their Franciscan spirit, the labyrinth was created simply and naturally from fertilized grass. “May Peace Prevail on Earth” is inscribed on the Peace Pole, at its center, in eight languages.
Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, formally opened the cause for canonization of founder Servant of God Father Paul of Graymoor.
In support of his cause for canonization, documents and artifacts, illustrating the holiness of the life of Servant of God Father Paul of Graymoor, were sealed for shipment to Rome.
San Damiano House & Farm, a ministry of the Friars dedicated to serving men in recovery from addictions, opened at Graymoor.