While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Sister Nellie Rooney, O.S.F.

ATONEMENT FRIARS AND SISTERS. The Union-That-Nothing-Be-Lost collected alms and dispensed many thousands of dollars to missions, some of them in Texas. It was started as a vehicle for mission work by Fr. Paul James Francis Wattson (born Lewis Thomas Wattson) and Sr. Lurana White, Episcopalians who had founded the Society of the Atonement, a Franciscan order. The friars published a monthly magazine, the Lamp, and the sisters published the Candle. As a move toward Christian unity the leaders of the Friars and the Sisters of the Atonement joined the Catholic Church in 1909, along with a group of lay associates. The first mission house for both the friars and the sisters was St. Anthony's Church in Hereford, Texas, where the pastor, Fr. J. A. Campbell, was struggling to maintain a parish and school. The Atonement nuns conducted St. Anthony's School from 1917 to 1938, then left to devote themselves more exclusively to social services. The friars served as pastors of St. Anthony's Church and its missions from 1920 to 1988. During their tenure they helped develop three other parishes. In addition, St. Ann's in Bovina, founded by Campbell, came under the friars' jurisdiction in 1920. St. Teresa's in Friona was founded through the efforts of Fr. Raymond Gillis, an Atonement friar. Gillis moved to Hereford in 1948 and worked among the migrant laborers in the vegetable fields of the area. His flock lived in the barracks of a former prisoner of war camp. In this setting, dubbed the "Labor Camp," Gillis built a church, school, convent, and clinic. He thus also provided the first Catholic church for nearby Friona. As former migrant families settled down in Hereford, they built a new St. Joseph's Church in the city, and many of the services at the Labor Camp were discontinued. By 1980 St. Joseph's in Hereford was the largest parish in the Catholic Diocese of Amarillo.

While at Hereford, Campbell had founded the first Catholic periodical in the Panhandle. In answer to the Menace, an anti-Catholic paper, the priest began a monthly, the Antidote. He ran the press himself. When the Atonement friars came to Hereford, Father Paul transferred the printing of the Antidote to Graymoor, New York, where it was published alongside the Lamp until 1931. Gillis served as pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Memphis, Texas, from 1977 to 1981, and built an educational and meeting building there.

The Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement opened a house for religious and social services in Sour Lake in 1925. They transferred their center to Dickinson in 1929 in order to serve more people. They closed their mission in Texas in 1946. In 1990 the Friars of the Atonement operated in North and South America, Europe, Jamaica, and Japan. In 1991 one friar, located in Bovina (Diocese of Amarillo), represented the order in Texas.

Sister Nellie Rooney, O.S.F., and Mrs. Edna Reinart, The Society of the Atonement in West Texas, 1917–1988 (Amarillo: Diocese of Amarillo, 1988). St. Anthony's Fiftieth Anniversary, 1922–1972 (Hereford, Texas, 1972).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Sister Nellie Rooney, O.S.F., "ATONEMENT FRIARS AND SISTERS," accessed August 11, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ixa01.

Uploaded on June 9, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...