The Rev. Brian Terry is finishing his tenure as minister general for the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, a Catholic congregation at Graymoor in Philipstown.


What is your background?
I was born in a small southern town called Washington, D.C. My parents moved to the Maryland suburbs and then to northern Virginia. The friars had a parish in Sterling Park, Virginia, and it seemed like a fit for me with what they were doing. I studied pre-medical psychiatry and switched to theater to scare my parents. I have, from Catholic University, a dual degree in fine and performing arts and psychology. I did some fun things when I was in theater, like work with David Copperfield and Marcel Marceau and a Kabuki theater in Japan. The friars asked me to go to Rome to study, and I got a bachelor’s degree in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University.


The Society of the Atonement is celebrating its 125th anniversary. How did it come about?
It was founded in 1898 in Philipstown by Father Paul Wattson and Mother Lurana White in the Episcopalian tradition. In 1909, 17 men and women came into full communion with the Catholic Church. Canon at that time didn’t allow a community to be mixed, so the church split us into the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement and the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement. Father Wattson is in the process of becoming a saint. He’s been named a Servant of God and we’re in the process with the Vatican of doing the paperwork to go to the next level.


How is the society celebrating the anniversary?
We kicked it off in September with a visit from Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury. Then, on Dec. 15, the day the society was established, we had a celebration at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. We kicked off this summer with a concert series, and a closing ceremony is scheduled for Dec. 15.


Where else does the society have missions?
We have a parish in Japan with a soup kitchen and a school. It’s been there since World War II and was initially a high school for women. We’re in Rome and Assisi in Italy. In Brockton, Massachusetts, there is a chapel with a gift shop. We have a parish in Toronto, and a new foundation in Lima, Peru, where we work with the poorest of the poor. We just received donations of a property in Monterrey, Mexico, and a 200-acre farm in West Virginia that we hope to turn into another type of farm or a halfway house.


You’ve been the minister general for 10 years. What’s next?
That’s a good question. I want to know the answer to that, too. We have to finish the transition period. It’s a complex transition because we have eight corporations. I’ll help through the transition and after that, most likely it’s time for some renewal and sabbatical time.


by Leonard Sparks
Originally published on The Highlands Current, June 14, 2024

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