Cause for Canonization of Father Paul of Graymoor, Apostle of Christian Unity and Charity, Moves to Rome.
(March 21, 2017—Graymoor, Garrison, NY) On March 9, 2017, at the New York Catholic Center in Manhattan, documents and artifacts illustrating the holiness of the life of Servant of God Father Paul of Graymoor, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, were sealed for shipment to Rome. This commenced the final leg of his incredible journey from Protestant Episcopal priest at Graymoor to a Catholic apostle of Christian Unity and charity and potentially becoming one of the Church’s canonized saints.
“In 2015, Timothy Cardinal Dolan issued a decree initiating the cause for canonization of Fr. Paul of Graymoor in the Archdiocese of New York. He named various officials to carry out the historical research, theological evaluation and the search for those who can testify to Father Paul’s reputation for holiness. Their findings are now to be presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome,” said Minister General of the Franciscan Friars, Fr. Brian F. Terry, SA. “The research and volumes of documentation that is part of the Archdiocesan investigation into the cause for Fr. Paul’s canonization began in earnest in 2015.”
The Historical Commission for Fr. Paul’s cause has completed their report, which was daunting as Fr. Paul was a prolific writer who corresponded with people from around the world. They conducted research and interviews with many people about Fr. Paul’s reputation. The Commission’s findings were sealed by the Archdiocese of New York in a ceremony which included Cardinal Dolan, Fr. Gabriel O’Donnell, OP, United States postulator for the cause, those who read through the vast writings of Father Paul and interviewed witnesses about his holiness. The Friars’ current leadership Council and other church officials were present for the occasion.
On January 16, 1863, at the height of the Civil War in America, Father Paul was named Lewis Thomas Wattson by his father, Joseph Newton Wattson, a Presbyterian who converted to the Episcopal Church, and his mother, a twice-widowed woman named Mary Electa. Influenced by the writings of John Henry Newman, who inspired a Catholic Revival within the English Anglican Church and was later received into the Catholic Church, Joseph Wattson was dismissed from General Seminary in New York under the suspicion of being a “secret Jesuit.” He later served as Rector in a small Episcopal Church in Maryland. Throughout his life, he was marginalized, misunderstood, frustrated and poor, but his name will be forever remembered, chosen as he was by God to father, to train and help to form the character and faith of a man destined to accomplish great things as Father Paul James Wattson—Fr. Paul of Graymoor.
In 1885, Lewis graduated from General Theological Seminary, his father’s alma mater. In 1898, twelve years after he was ordained as an Episcopal priest, in collaboration with religious sister of the Episcopal Church, Lurana Mary White, Fr.Paul co-founded the Society of the Atonement at Graymoor, taking the name Paul. 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 Mary 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.
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 world-wide 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.
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. 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, and is still available today as digital webcasts. 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),both active global Church ministries to this day.
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, from their home at Graymoor and in communities and
parishes on three continents.
“The ministry of At-One- Ment started 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, who is the 12 th 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 prayed for and worked to resolve.”
The Friars began the Father Paul of Graymoor Guild as a clearing house of information and updates on his canonization cause, and requests for prayer cards and prayer intentions have come from around the world. For more information about Fr. Paul or to request a prayer card, visit FatherPaulofGraymoor.org.
CONTACT: Caitlin Bootsma, Franciscan Friars of the Atonement