(October 8, 2014—Garrison, NY) Father Robert Warren, SA, a Franciscan Friar of the Atonement, was named as this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Service Award at the 29th Annual Putnam Community Service Network’s (PCSN) Awards Breakfast held on September 23, 2014.

Fr. Warren, who is called Fr. Bob by those who know him, was nominated by Loretta Molinari of theVisiting Nurse Services Westchester. “My first experience with Fr. Bob happened many years ago when the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired human immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDs) health crisis first surfaced. At that time, some of us began a grass roots effort to address the illness, death and devastation that was occurring all across America and in our own Putnam community,” said Ms. Molinari. “Very few people wanted to acknowledge or even discuss the disease at first because it was not at all understood and very much feared. Once it became associated with the gay population, many reacted out of this fear and in ways that severely stigmatized anyone in the gay community. This fearful and mean-spirited climate took hold and fighting back was directed by the passion of a select few and came in the form of education.”

Fr. Bob was among the small group of citizens who reacted with grave concern at the treatment of those with the illness and stood up to take action. With his participation as the spiritual guide, the Putnam AIDS Task Force was born. Subsequently, this task force made a significant contribution to the community for the next 15+ years providing education on HIV/AIDS, providing medical information about the infection, its transmission and most importantly prevention. This was a difficult task given that the HIV virus is sometimes transmitted through sexual contact, making education in schools and other venues extremely challenging. Ms. Molinari added, “Fr. Bob’s engagement as a religious leader helped legitimize the Task Force’s message of power in knowledge and helped to emphasize the need for compassion.”

His involvement did not end with the task force. The Atonement Friar realized that many of the people coming to 12-step Program alcohol and drug recovery retreats at Graymoor or seeking treatment at St. Christopher’s Inn, a ministry of the friars, were HIV positive or suffering from AIDs. As the spiritual director for the HIV support group which has been meeting at Graymoor in Garrison, NY, since 1988, he has facilitated the Do Not Fear to Hope meeting that meets regularly. Once a year, Father Bob brings its many participants, past and present, on a retreat where individuals infected with HIV from all walks of life can come together for support and friendship.

The “Do Not Fear to Hope” group provides a safe place to discuss feelings and anxieties. Participants were delighted that Fr. Bob was chosen for this award. Reflecting the stigma still attached to the HIV diagnosis, one member speaking anonymously said, “In the chaotic whirlwind where victims of AIDs find themselves, one person has always been there for us, to comfort and advise, to knit us together. I am amazed by how much one person can do and the difference one person can make in so many lives. I am inspired by Fr. Bob.”

Fr. Bob Warren was formally congratulated for his community service with proclamations from NY StateSenators Greg Ball and Terry Gipson, and from Assembly Members Sandra Galef and Steve Katz, as well as from Putnam County Executive Mary Ann Odell. The Putnam Community Service Network, currently chaired by Patricia Sheehy, is an educational program of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Putnam County. Each year they seek to honor individuals who are serving a broad array of programs, projects, and services in Putnam County, giving much-deserved recognition for their accomplishments and contributions to the community.

The Franciscan Friars of the Atonement are a Roman Catholic order of brothers and priests founded in 1898 by Fr. Paul Wattson, SA 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. Their ecumenical work makes them leaders of the international movement to heal the divisions within Christianity and among all faiths. Through their prayers and pastoral ministries, they bring spiritual renewal, unity, harmony, and reconciliation throughout the world and carry the Gospel message to three continents.

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.

COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC RELATIONS PO Box 301 • Route 9, Garrison NY 10524-0301 • 845-424-3671, ext. 3421 • fax 845-424-2160 www.atonementfriars.org • communications@atonementfriars.org