St. Francis Xavier parish lays claim to the illustrious title of first colonial parish. Its history goes back to pre-Revolutionary America, when the first colonists were leaving England to begin a new life.
The first ship bearing Catholics dropped anchor off the shore of Maryland in 1634. When the Catholics set foot on the new colony’s soil, they felt hope surge up in their chests.
This land, they declared, would be a place of religious freedom. Here, the anti-Catholic laws of England and other countries would not disturb those who adhered to the one, true, Catholic, and apostolic Church.
The Puritans who gained control of Maryland in the 1640s had other ideas, though. For nearly thirty years, they did all they could to banish, discourage, and outlaw the Catholics. Twice—first in 1645 and again in 1655—they drove out the Jesuits who came to serve the Catholic community, and twice the Jesuits came right back, completely undaunted.
Finally, England’s last Catholic monarch—Charles II—ascended the throne. He overturned the previous laws on religion and extended religious freedom to his entire domain.
This was the signal for the Catholics to build their first church, now that they knew it would not mysteriously burn to the ground immediately after they finished it.
A husband and wife, Mr. and Mrs. William Bretton, donated part of their land to the Church. St. Francis Xavier Church was erected there in 1661 and given its own cemetery (which is still in use today—360 years later!). Since then, the parish has remained firmly rooted in the soil of its ancestors, glorying in its 400-year-old heritage.
Remember to pray for our beloved country with our St. Michael America Brave Beads Tenner. Featuring jasper and white turquoise beads in the colors of the American flag, this piece recalls the courage of our ancestors and reminds us to pray for their souls and for continued religious freedom today. Get yours today at The Catholic Company!