Maryland’s Catholic heritage can be traced back to the colonial era. Over the centuries, Maryland has stacked numerous claims to singular Catholic milestones for the New World. As with most of North America, the early Church in Maryland was entrusted to the Jesuits and the Franciscans. 

The colonial years in Maryland were marked by great struggle. Protestant colonials strove to drive out Catholicism numerous times. Yet, the Church remained, even resorting to underground efforts. Furthermore, Catholic Patriots were largely responsible for Maryland’s entrance into the American Revolution. Significantly, by the time the Revolutionary cause came to light, a Catholic named Charles Carroll spurred the patriot cause. Carroll was the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. If not for his efforts, Maryland may not have become a member of the United States. Initially, its delegates voted to remain a province. Notably, John Carroll also founded Georgetown University. Lastly, Reverend John Carroll, also a patriot, later became the first Catholic Bishop of the United States. 

Notable Catholic Figures

Well known saints have also left their mark on Maryland. Notably, the first religious order founded in the United States was founded by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg. Additionally, the archdiocese of Baltimore was the first diocese in the United States. Pope John Paul the Great offered a rousing sermon in Baltimore’s Oriole Park in 1995. Many Catholic Americans are familiar with this quote taken from that day:

 “Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”

This was a significant event not only for Catholics in Maryland, but for all American Catholics. Furthermore, it is fitting that the state named after a Catholic, and most likely Our Lady as well, would be the epicenter of Catholicism in America.

Fun Facts

Given that Maryland has a long and storied history with Catholicism,  Here are some significant events related to Catholicism in Maryland:

  1. The establishment of the colony of Maryland: In 1634, King Charles I of England granted a charter to Cecilius Calvert, the 2nd Lord Baltimore, to establish the colony of Maryland. The colony was established as a refuge for English Catholics, who were facing persecution in England at the time.
  2. The Act of Toleration: In 1649, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Act of Toleration, which granted religious freedom to all Christians in the colony. This was one of the first laws of its kind in the English colonies, and it established Maryland as a haven for Catholics and other minority religious groups.
  3. The Jesuit impact: Jesuits came to Maryland as early as 1634. Fr. Andrew White SJ, founded a mission in Maryland. He also celebrated the first Catholic mass in the colonies on St. Clements Island.
  4. The founding of Georgetown University: In 1789, John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop in the United States, founded Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. This was the first Catholic university in the United States, and it played a vital role in the growth and development of Catholicism in Maryland and the surrounding region.
  5. The Civil War and the archdiocese of Baltimore: During the Civil War, Maryland was a border state, and the Catholic Church played a significant role in trying to maintain peace and unity among the divided population. In 1789, the archdiocese of Baltimore was established, making it the oldest Catholic archdiocese in the United States.


Maryland’s history offers a seemingly endless list of noteworthy Catholic people, institutions, and milestones. There are many ways to explore Catholicism’s footprint in Maryland. What is your favorite fun fact about Maryland? Let us know!

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