Father Bob Warren, SA, spoke of a letter he recently received. It was a note from a former Brother Christopher at St. Christopher’s Inn, that touched his heart.
“It was all of you Friars that started filling my empty heart. This place, St. Christopher’s, will always have a special place in my heart and in my children’s hearts,” Father Bob said, reading from the letter. “My spirituality is rising, and I hope to continue the way of life you have taught me, to the best of my ability. All of you started me on a life for which I will forever be in debt.”
It was a sweet story shared, and a small part of a joyous occasion on Thursday, April 20 at Graymoor, during Benefactor Appreciation Day. The Franciscan Friars of the Atonement received nearly 100 benefactors for a day that included a short morning reception; a celebration of the Eucharist at Our Lady of the Atonement Chapel; lunch in the Graymoor dining hall; a program for donors offering updates on the Friars’ ministries; and a presentation of art created by the Brothers Christopher at St. Christopher’s Inn.
Minister General Father Brian Terry, SA, had much to update the benefactors on. Among the highlights he shared was the news of the first professions of Brother Yasser Zamora, SA, Brother Teodoro Zamora, SA, and Brother Alexander Espinosa, SA. The trio made their first profession of vows as Atonement Friars this past December, in Lima, Peru.
“We are very excited to say we’ve expanded in South America,” Father Brian said. “We have a new foundation in Lima, Peru.”
Father Brian added that the Friars, in total, have 35 men in formation. Among them is Father Vitaliy Perih, who entered into postulancy last month. Father Tim MacDonald, SA, spoke highly of Father Vitaliy, who is continuing ministerial activity for many Ukrainian children hospitalized at the Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome. Not only is he providing spiritual safe keeping there, but he is also serving as a linguistic and cultural mediator between the medical and paramedical staff, and the Ukrainian families who are present.
Father Brian then pointed out that the Friars are on the cusp of the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Society of the Atonement, by Servant of God Father Paul Wattson, SA, and Mother Lurana White, SA. The 125th anniversary takes place on December 15, but there will be celebrations recognizing the anniversary across the world, throughout the 2023-24 year.
A rosary garden with the Franciscan crown is in the works, to be located below the tomb of Father Paul at Graymoor, and shrines to St. Peregrine and St. Jude are on the way.
The restoration of Father Paul’s original friary is complete and there will be a dedication there later this year. What’s more, the Holy Mountain Franciscan Retreat Center renovation is complete, and Father Brian encouraged benefactors to come and enjoy one of Graymoor’s many retreat offerings.
“It’s great to come away and spend some time. When your cell phone battery isn’t charged and doesn’t work anymore, you spend time charging it. Do you do that for your spirit? Do you do that for your soul?” Father Brian said. “You can come away and enter the quiet for a little while, and contemplate on the blessings all around us.”
After the updates, a presentation of Art Therapy was given. Art work by Brothers Christopher was on display, and it was explained how the men use artistic technique to bring about mental and emotional healing.
To view photos from Benefactor Day, visit the Friars of the Atonement Facebook page.