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.
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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