By Michelle Laque Johnson
How did Catholicism come to the United States of America? EWTN sets out to answer this question in a new eight-part mini-series “Catholic Beginnings: Maryland” that begins at 6:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, July 3 and runs through Sunday, July 10. The series, hosted by Father Charles Connor of St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., begins on St. Clements Island in Southern Maryland. Throughout the week, you will explore other famous Catholic sites such as the historic “Dove” ship, colonial St. Mary’s City and St. Inigoes, Maryland; Newtown Manor and St. Francis Xavier cemetery; St. Francis Xavier and St. Ignatius Churches; as well as the Carmel monastery at Port Tobacco.
As Fr. Connor notes, in this series, “we are not speaking of the Spanish settlement of Florida, which is earlier. We are not speaking of the French settlement of New England and Canada, which is earlier. We are speaking rather about the 13 colonies which became the nucleus of the United States of America.”
How many people who visit St. Clements Island today realize they are standing on the ground where the first Catholic Mass in what would become the United States was celebrated? How many realize that the first cross in what would be the U.S. was erected on this island by Jesuits, who were fleeing religious persecution in England? How many realize that the settlers, who were seeking religious freedom in the New World and granting it to others, would later be denied this freedom themselves?
Understanding what the first Catholics endured both in Europe and the U.S. should help those of us in the present century understand the importance of standing up for religious freedom in our own times!
In the coming year, EWTN will be exploring other places important to the growth of the Catholic faith in America. Our next stop is Philadelphia, so please stay tuned!