FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
(September 29, 2015—Garrison, NY) Timothy Cardinal Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York formally opened the Cause for Canonization of Servant of God Father Paul of Graymoor on Tuesday, September 22, 2015 in New York City. The Rev. Paul Wattson, SA, (1863-1940) was founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement and a champion of Christian unity and helping the poor.
The Cardinal issued a decree initiating the Cause for Canonization of Fr. Paul of Graymoor and named the various officials who will carry out the historical research, theological evaluation and the search for those who can testify to Father Paul’s reputation for holiness. These individuals swore an oath of intention to faithfully fulfill their duties according to the current norms of the Church. They will periodically meet with officials of the Cause at the Chancery where progress reports will be made and future directions for the investigation will be determined. When the work is completed, the results will be presented to the Cardinal for his judgment, and there will be a formal closing ceremony of the diocesan process of the Cause. Once completed, the Archdiocese will forward its findings to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome where the second phase, often called the “Roman” phase, will take place.
The formal opening commences the lengthy diocesan investigation into the life, virtue and work of the Servant of God. There is no time frame for the completion of this project but ordinarily such investigations take a minimum of one or two years.
Father Paul’s tireless efforts toward Christian unity, support of missionary activity and benevolent care for homeless men at St. Christopher’s Inn show the Holy Spirit was at work through him. He started a prayer for unity which grew to become the worldwide Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and dialogue with our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters. He actively raised funds for missions that serve the poor around the world. His landmark shelter, St. Christopher’s Inn at Graymoor in Garrison, NY, to this day ministers to men who suffer from homelessness and substance abuse, bringing God’s healing grace to those who are often on the brink of self-destruction.
Father Paul of Graymoor was born on January 16, 1863, in Millington, Maryland, to the Rev. Joseph Wattson and his wife Mary Electa Wattson. In 1898, twelve years after he was ordained as an Episcopal priest, in collaboration with religious sister of the Episcopal Church, Lurana White, he co-founded the Society of the Atonement at Graymoor. This new religious order was formed in the tradition of the Franciscans with the mission of promoting Christian unity and working with the poor. In 1908, Father Paul initiated the Church Unity Octave believing that a time set aside for prayer and seminars would hasten Christian unity. Both he and Mother Lurana White made a decision to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church one year later in 1909. The Society of the Atonement became the first religious community to be received corporately into the Catholic Church since the Reformation. Fr. Paul was ordained a Catholic priest by Archbishop John M. Farley in 1910.
“The ministry of At-One-Ment begun by Fr. Paul continues through ongoing dialogue within the Christian Church and interreligious dialogue with Jews, Muslims and other world religious communities,” said V. Rev. Brian F. Terry, SA, Minister General of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement. “The many challenges God’s people face today–conflicts, wars, disease, addictions, homelessness, are the same things that Fr. Paul endeavored to resolve. The first step with Fr. Paul was always contemplation and prayer.”
It has been said that Fr. Paul had the heart of a Franciscan, and the passion to share the gospel like the apostle St. Paul. Fr. Paul published The Lamp, a monthly magazine devoted to Christian unity and the missions, and he produced “The Ave Maria Hour,” a radio program that broadcasted stories about the life of Christ and the lives of the Saints which aired from 1935 to 1969.
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 (CNEWA) and was instrumental in helping to launch the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB).
Fr. Paul Wattson died on February 8, 1940 at Graymoor in Garrison, NY of heart failure, and was laid to rest at the top of Mount Atonement in the shadow of the bell tower of the St. Francis Chapel he built at Graymoor. The Franciscan Friars of the Atonement continue his work toward Christian unity on three continents.
The formal opening occurred at the Chancery of the Archdiocese of New York, commenced and ended with a prayer led by Cardinal Dolan. The Franciscan Friars of the Atonement leadership team who were present at the gathering sang the hymn to Our Lady of the Atonement, in honor of Fr. Paul’s dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1919, Pope Benedict XV granted Fr. Paul’s fervent appeal to bless the then fledgling Atonement community by recognizing the Graymoor custom giving the mother of Christ the title Our Lady of the Atonement.
The opening of Fr. Paul of Graymoor’s cause by the Archdiocese took place just as Pope Francis arrived in the United States for his first historic visit. V. Rev. Terry, S.A., said, “Father Paul was called by God to dedicate his life to building unity and helping the least among us. He founded the Society of the Atonement, and with those early friars and sisters took brave and uphill steps toward unity. Fr. Paul accepted that God was calling him to something very difficult, and he accepted this joyfully. He put himself in God’s hands and followed His will. Powered by the Holy Spirit, Fr. Paul set At-One-Ment into motion. The message of Pope Francis reminds us that though history has separated us, we continue on this path toward reconciliation and communion; the Holy Father encourages everyone to pray that all Christians may truly be one and all people will work toward unity, as Fr. Paul did throughout his life.”
The Franciscan Friars of the Atonement are a Catholic order of brothers and priests founded in 1898 by Fr. Paul Wattson, S.A., Servant of God, at Graymoor in Garrison. Since that time, the Friars have worked for reconciliation and healing through “at-one-ment” — the unity of men and women with God and with one another — so that the prayer of Jesus “that they all may be one” might be fulfilled. Through their mission and ministries, they serve people of every race, religion, and walk of life. Their social ministries help the poor, the needy, and the homeless; people living with HIV; frail and elderly in hospitals and hospices; those in prison; and people seeking recovery from alcoholism and chemical addictions. They are part of the international movement to heal divisions within Christianity and among all faiths through their ecumenical outreach and research Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute, in New York City, Centro Pro Unione in Rome and serving as diocesan ecumenical officers. Since 1945, the friars have been guardians and administrators for Sant’Onofrio al Gianicolo, Rome, the official church of the papal order of The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem . Through their prayers and pastoral ministries, they bring spiritual renewal, unity, harmony, and reconciliation throughout the world and carry the Gospel’s message to three continents. For more information about the friars, visit AtonementFriars.org.
The Franciscan Friars of the Atonement are a Roman Catholic religious order of brothers and priests founded in 1898 by Father Paul Wattson. Their worldwide ministries include Christian unity; interfaith dialogue among Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists; serving the homeless and those suffering from alcoholism, drug addictions, and HIV/AIDS; preaching the gospel in parishes around the world, and offering respite and hope to those in need of spiritual renewal.
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