GARRISON, New York — The Franciscan Friars of the Atonement spent their recent assembly “examining the future of our ecumenical ministry, our social ministry, our pastoral ministry and the future of the formation of religious life.”
The friars gathered at Graymoor, their motherhouse in Garrison, for the Atonement Franciscan Assembly March 7-11, which had as its theme, “At One: Hope, Healing & Harmony.”
A report released on the assembly’s highlights said the friars came together with “inspiration from St. Francis and St. Clare” and from the founders of the Society of the Atonement, Father Paul Wattson and Mother Lurana White.
The priest, who is a candidate for sainthood, and Mother Lurana founded the community in 1898 at Graymoor.
“Ever since, the friars have been devoted to bringing unity, reconciliation and healing to a broken world by living, embracing and fostering the charism of ‘At-One-Ment’ — unity with God, others and self,” the assembly report said.
“We walk alongside those in need of God’s love and healing,” it continued, “through our ministries like St. Christopher’s Inn, Do Not Fear to Hope HIV/AIDS Support Group, the Holy Mountain Franciscan Retreat Center and ecumenical centers and parish ministries across the globe.”
The assembly included facilitated dialogue in response to Pope Francis’ call for a “Synod on Synodality,” an exploration of the life and mission of the Catholic Church.
The church in the U.S. and around the world is engaged in a listening phase in preparation for the 2023 meeting of the world Synod of Bishops on synodality, called for by Pope Francis, around the theme, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.”
The listening phase in dioceses, religious communities and other Catholic organizations is taking place through August 2022.
A report on the friars’ discussion and reflection has been sent to New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan to be submitted to the Office of the Synod at the Vatican on behalf of the Archdiocese of New York, which includes Garrison.
The friars began their assembly by examining the future of their ecumenical ministry, “which is central to the friars’ charism of ‘At-One-Ment,’ with its focus on the reconciliation of Christians and their churches and unity in fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer ‘that all may be one,'” the report said.
“From our panel and discussions, we concluded that we must each offer our best self to our fellow Christians and those of other faiths in friendship, choosing to live out our ecumenism and charism with intentionality,” it said.
Father Wattson and Mother Lurana “embodied the true spirit of ecumenism, making Graymoor more than just a friary and a convent,” it added.
“It’s a common home where all are welcome, hearts can be reconciled, sins may be forgiven and differences respected — because nothing should be lost and no one should be abandoned or left behind,” the report said.
“From our dialogue, we agreed that extending the hand of friendship to people of all backgrounds and faith traditions, including and especially those that are different from our own is the crucible through which ecumenism is forged,” the report added.
Father Wattson and Mother Lurana belonged to the Episcopal Church when they co-founded of the Society of the Atonement, a community of priests, sisters and brothers “who work for reconciliation and healing through the unity of men and women with God and one another.”
In 1909, the friars and the sisters, including Father Wattson and Mother Lurana, and 13 of their lay associates were received into the Catholic Church.
Father Wattson’s legacy includes the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, observed each January. His canonization cause was formally opened by the New York Archdiocese in 2015.
“Examining the future of our pastoral ministry, we were reminded of how important it is to bring our charism to the world,” stated the report on the friars’ assembly.
Father Wattson encouraged the friars to leave Graymoor, the Holy Mountain, it said, “and go out into our neighboring communities,” bringing its spirit “to one and all.”
“Conversely, when people flock to Graymoor for a retreat, there is always a friar prepared to help,” whether it’s to hear a confession, celebrate Mass or being there for liturgical support, the report said.
“The word that came up frequently while assessing our pastoral ministry, was ‘relationship,’ and our ministries here at Graymoor and around the world help us reach out and stay in contact with the needs of diverse people from all around the globe.”
During the assembly, the report said, the friars asked themselves “to think about the common good and our collective humanity; to be more aware of the connective tissue that binds us all and to have faith and confidence that our God has the power to unify and transform.”
“We will look to bridge the gaps, reaching out and educating more young people on the beauty of the ministry and welcoming and inviting people of every age and walk of life to be children of the atonement in ways that matter and make a difference,” the report added.