One hundred and twenty-one years ago, in 1898, Servant of God Fr. Paul Wattson, SA, and Mother Lurana White formed a spiritual covenant, the foundation of the Society of the Atonement – today the Franciscan Friars and Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement.
Sister Lurana and Fr. Wattson were Anglo-Catholics and began corresponding about ways to live out poverty in the Franciscan tradition as well as about ways to bring about unity between Anglicans and Roman Catholics. Their letters led to an eventual meeting in Sister Lurana’s home in Warwick, New York.
Now known as Covenant Day, on October 7th, the two religious met and discussed forming a religious community with a Franciscan charism within the Anglican faith. They looked to Scripture to find a name for their new community and first found John 7:37-39 which recounts Christ preaching and confirmed their desire to form a community of preachers.
They then came upon Romans 5:11, which reads in the King James translation: “And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.”
Fr. Paul understood “atonement” to signify the unity that was so dear to both of their hearts. This led to the community’s charism of “At-One-Ment”, emphasizing unity with God, with one another, and within oneself. They also recognized that joy must be central to the life of religious priests, brothers, and sisters.
Each year, the Friars celebrate Covenant Day as the beginning of their community. Many things have changed since that day – including coming into the Roman Catholic Church – but a commitment to preaching and spreading the cause of “At-One-Ment” have remained as important to the hearts of the Friars as it was to Fr. Paul and Mother Lurana.