On Sunday, June 29, Cardinal Wuerl celebrated Mass on St. Clement’s Island where the first Catholic Mass in the English-speaking colonies was celebrated. When the Ark and the Dove landed in Maryland in 1634, the colonists held a ceremony to take possession of the land and read Lord Baltimore’s instructions aloud, which included the first policy of religious tolerance in America.

“All of us, as spiritual descendants of those intrepid women and men, can rejoice and take pride in their vision and courage.” – Cardinal Donald Wuerl

 June 30, 2014

WASHINGTON – As part of the year-long celebration for the 75th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, celebrated two special Masses at historic sites in Southern Maryland this weekend. The two sites, the historic Brick Chapel in St. Mary’s City and St. Clement’s Island, both serve as powerful reminders of the area’s legacy as the birthplace of religious freedom in the United States. During the Masses, Cardinal Wuerl recognized several individuals and organizations with special awards on the occasion of the archdiocesan anniversary.

Saturday’s Mass at the Brick Chapel was where in 1667 Jesuit missionaries built a brick chapel in Maryland’s first capital. The chapel was the grandest building in Maryland at the time and stood as a sign of the religious freedom in the colony. However, in 1704 by order of the royal governor, the sheriff of St. Mary’s County locked the doors of the Brick Chapel, which was later dismantled. Catholics at the time could no longer worship in public in a colony that had been founded on the principle of religious freedom. In 1997 a campaign was launched to raise funds to rebuild the Brick Chapel; scholars used historic detective work in designing the rebuilt chapel on the original foundation, based on archaeological evidence uncovered at the site and on what Jesuit mission churches looked like in the 17th century.

On Sunday, June 29, Cardinal Wuerl celebrated Mass on St. Clement’s Island, the location of the first Catholic Mass by Fr. Andrew White, S.J. in the English-speaking colonies on March 25, 1634, when the Ark and the Dove landed in Maryland. Today a 40-foot white cross stands at the southern end of the island, honoring the establishment of religious tolerance in America.

“The first Mass on St. Clement’s Island in 1634 marked the beginning in this land of an unbroken line of continuity in faith, celebration and service that goes back 2,000 years. Today, this legacy is manifest in so many ways today in the Archdiocese of Washington through its parishes, missions, schools and social service agencies. This diamond jubilee presents an occasion to acknowledge and thank those who have generously given their time, talent and treasure to our family of faith, as well as to our sisters and brothers whom we are called to serve in the greater community,” said the Cardinal.

Full press release here: Individuals and Organizations in Southern Maryland Honored on Occasion of Archdiocese of Washington’s 75th Anniversary