Route 9, Garrison, Philipstown township, Putnam County, NY

New York Times, Thursday, August 24, 2000. "The Friars and the National Park Service reach deal on Appalachian Trail."

The AT Trail runs through Graymoor along a 58-acre easement purchased by the Park Service in 1983. In some places the easement is only 50 feet wide, and authorities wanted to buffer it with an additional 18 acres from the friars' 400-acre home. The friary houses 130 priests, brothers, and sisters.

The friars are among the trail's most hospitable hosts, offering meals, showers, and shelter to hikers. But federal officials became concerned when the friary violated the easement with a pump house and sewer pipes.

The federal government had threatened to seize 18 acres of the friary's land under eminent domain -- taking the land without permission and paying market price. But the two sides walked the trail and drew proposed boundaries that appeased concerns both secular and spiritual.

Historical Background:

1893  --  the Reverend Lewis Thomas Wattson, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Kingston, New York, comes to a decision to establish a new religious community of Episcopal preachers, to be called the “Society of the Atonement.”  Wattson wanted to reconcile Christians and their churches in Christian unity.

He was unable to get any cooperation on his idea in Kingston partly because people were suspicious of religious communities within the Episcopal Church. Nor did he have much luck in Omaha, Nebraska.

1897  --  Father Wattson receives a letter from Miss Lurana White, a novice of the Episcopal Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus in Albany, New York who asked him to help her find a religious community whose members took a vow of poverty in the Franciscan tradition.

They exchanged many letters about the possibility of beginning the Society of the Atonement.

October 1898  --  the two enthusiasts met at the White family home in Warwick, New York and wrote a “covenant” to found the society of the Atonement. Lurana suggested founding the society at a tiny chapel across the Hudson River near the hamlet of Garrison, New York known as Graymoor.  Lurana White takes up residence at Graymoor in the rustic farmhouse near the chapel of St. John’s -in-the-Wilderness.

1899  --  Father Paul (Wattson's new adopted name) lives in an old paint shack at Graymoor which he called his “Palace of Lady Poverty.”

The Society urged Anglicans to unite with the Roman Catholic Church, a not very popular idea. (The Anglicans would still maintain their independent traditions.)  Monies dried up and Sister Lurana had to beg for funds in the New York City subway. Despite the hardships, they continued to follow the path of Francis of Assisi in their commitment as Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement.

1907  --  the General Convention of the Episcopal Church decides to allow ministers of other Christian churches to preach from Episcopal pulpits if the local bishop approved. Father Paul and Sister Lurana could not accept the decision as they saw it as a possible threat to the distinctiveness of Anglicanism.

1909  --  Father Wattson and Sister Lurana decide to become Roman Catholic while still continuing their mission. Two religious communities, one of friars and one of sisters, now constituted the Society of the Atonement.

They published The Lamp, a magazine devoted to Christian unity and mission.  And their St. Christopher’s Inn continued to receive thousands of homeless, needy men.

The Society grew and spread to Canada, Italy, England, Ireland, Japan and Brazil.

1935 --  Mother Lurana died.

1940  --  Father Paul died.

Today Graymoor is involved in religious education, social welfare, community development programs, pastoral, hospital and prison ministries, home visitation, adult day care, child day care and kindergartens, youth ministry, justice and peace work and guest and retreat house ministries.

(Source: "The History of Graymoor"