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The American Sisters and Brothers



The Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement, in Assisi called the American Sisters, are one of the Franciscan congregations of nuns who have a convent in Assisi. The Order, which comprises also a male branch, The Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, is relatively young compared to many of the other Franciscan Orders.

At the end of the 19th century lived in USA two people who because of their shared religious vocation became the founders of this Franciscan Order of Atonement sisters and brothers. Both Lurana White and Paul Wattson belonged to the Anglican Church, she as a nun, he as a priest. They were brought together by their longing for a religious community, whose members publicly professed the vow of a life in poverty according to the Franciscan tradition. After much correspondence by letter they met and established the covenant with God and each other to found the Atonement Society. But where to start? Lurana White knew a place near New York called Graymoor, and when Paul Wattson saw the small chapel and ramshackle country house in the wilderness he was enthusiastic. Here a life of poverty could be lived! In 1898 together with some companions both founders moved to Graymoor under poor and difficult conditions, and the small society began to translate their ideals into action. In the early years their special aim was to convince the Anglicans that they should unite with the Roman Catholic Church for the sake of Christian unity and mission. Naturally this was not received with enthusiasm all over the Anglican Church, and because more of their benefactors ceased sending donations, Lurana White now and then had to travel to New York City with some of her sisters to beg at subway turnstiles.

After some years of spiritual anguish and torment in 1909 Father Paul and Sister Lurana decided that they and their companions should become Roman Catholics, and thus they became the first group of converts after the reformation. The dedication of the Order to work for unity under the inspiration of the Gospel of St. John "That all may be one. That the world may believe" (St. John 17, 23) continued in the following years. Father Paul's pioneer mission in connection with the Prayer Week for Christian Unity, January 18-25, quickly bore fruit, as it was approved by Pope Pius X in 1910 (see under "Ecumenism" with a further description of Father Paul).
Having been received by the Catholic Church the Order started to grow and spread to more countries. Today the sisters have convents with social ministries and guest houses in USA, Canada, Italy, Japan, Brazil, and the Philippines. The brothers have social, ecumenical and pastoral ministries in USA, Canada, England, Italy and Japan. In Rome the brothers run a well-recognized center for ecumenism "Centro pro Unione", where they offer educational courses, hold congresses and meetings, and have a library of their own publications and others. Both the sisters and the brothers are still very active in connection with the Prayer Week for Christian Unity.

In 1931 the sisters bought a house in Assisi, and here the four sisters from USA, Canada and Italy have today one of the best situated convents inside the medieval town - opposite the Basilica of Saint Clare - and a beautiful guest house in the big, flourishing garden, which makes it necessary for groups to book a long time in advance to have their wish for accommodation fulfilled. Also in the guest house of the American Sisters "Saint Anthony's Guest House", pilgrims from all traditions are received in the spirit of St. Francis and St. Clare with warmth, joy and openness.

In addition to the ministry of welcome and hospitality the sisters are engaged in ecumenical and inter-religious activities in the diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino. Sr. Alessandra, S.A. is the Diocesan Delegate for Ecumenism and Dialogue and participates in meetings on both national and international levels.

In 2006 the brothers bought a house in Assisi, which is situated close to the convent and guest house of the sisters and close to the Basilica of Saint Clare. Having undergone a big renovation, at the beginning of 2007 the house was displayed by the happy brothers. With its large, beautiful garden and nice rooms it will provide a setting for many activities including inter-religious and ecumenical. The house of the brothers serves as a noviciate - training place for the young friars who are in process of taking the vows. They also have an idea of offering men in search of spirituality a place for a retreat to participate in the contemplative Franciscan prayer life.

For the pilgrims who do not master Italian, it is a great gift to have these two communities in Assisi, as all the sisters and brothers are also English speaking. Among all the other brothers and sisters in Assisi only a few of them speak another language than Italian.

Bente Wolf is an associate sister of the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement in Assisi, and in 2005 also another Italian woman joined the Order as an associate sister.

Links for the American Sisters and Friars:

Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement, in Assisi called the American Sisters. 
Franciscan Friars of the Atonementi Assisi called the Atonement-Friars. 

Centro Pro Unione, centeret for økumeni i Rom, som drives af Franciscan Friars of the Atonement.


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