Society of the Atonement

Society of the Atonement

The Society of the Atonement also the Atonement Friars/Graymoor Friars/Sisters is a Roman Catholic (formerly Episcopal) Franciscan religious society.

Beginnings of the society

In late 1895, Lurana White, a novice in a religious community of women known as The Episcopal Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus, made contact with the Rev. Paul Wattson, the superior of a small community of Episcopal priests. Both were part of the Anglo-Catholic Movement, also known as the Oxford Movement, which had developed in the Church of England in the early 1800s. Miss White asked Father Wattson's help in finding an Episcopal community of religious which practised corporate poverty in the Roman Catholic Franciscan tradition. Father Wattson was unaware of any such community, but began corresponding with her regarding his desire to see the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches reunited. In October 1898, the two met and made a spiritual covenant to form a new religious community with the aim of re-establishing Franciscan life in the Anglican Communion. The name of the new community was inspired by a passage in the Epistle to the Romans ("Romans" 5:11), which, in the King James Version of the Bible, speaks of the atonement Christians have received through Jesus. Wattson chose to interpret the word "atonement" in the literal sense of "at-one-ment," out of his vision that his new community should have the aim of leading all Christians to unity (oneness) with one another.

Founding and initial activities

On December 15, 1898, Miss White and two companions took up residence in the area of Garrison, New York, at a farmhouse known as Dimond House near the abandoned chapel of St. John's-in-the-Wilderness. Father Wattson joined them in the spring of 1899. With the formal establishment of the Society of the Atonement, they embraced religious life in the Episcopal Church. In taking vows, Miss White became known as Mother Lurana, while Father Wattson took the name of Father Paul James Francis. Mother Lurana became head of the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement, the women's branch of the society; Father Paul became superior of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement.

The Society preached the primacy of the Roman pontiff, while keeping its Episcopal allegiance, as they worked to realize a corporate reunion between the two bodies. Due to this, the founders and their small number of disciples came to find themselves criticised and ostracised by their co-religionists, who saw them as walking an impossible tightrope between the two bodies. Finally, they chose to seek admission to the Roman Catholic Church. In October 1909, the Vatican took the unprecedented step of accepting the members of the Society as a corporate body, allowing the friars and Sisters to remain in their established way of life.

Now members of the Roman Catholic Church, the Friars of the Atonement continued their work of advocating the reconciliation and eventual reunion of the various Christian denominations with the Roman Church, known as ecumenism. A major part of this effort was the Octave of Christian Unity, an eight-day period of prayer for the various segments of Christianity. It runs January 18–25, starting on the date that—at the time—marked the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter in Antioch, and ending on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. This period is now known as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and is celebrated by many Christian denominations.

In England the Friars of the Atonement used to run the Catholic Central Library, situated in the vicinities of Westminster Cathedral London, before its move to Farnborough.

Present-day activities

The Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement have established catechetical and daycare centers all over North America, serving rural communities throughout the western United States and Canada, as well as inner city locales, such as Harlem in New York City. Several accompanied the Japanese-American communities they served into the forced resettlement conducted during World War II. Today, the sisters serve in the United States, Canada, Italy, Japan, and Brazil.

External links

* [ Website of the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement]
* [ Website of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement]
* [ Website of the Catholic Central Library]

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