Television documentary from EWTN that explores Catholic history in the United States.
According to EWTN Global Catholic Network's new original series titled Catholic Beginnings: Maryland, the Catholic Church’s roots in the United States can be traced back to the earlier days of the founding of Maryland. The 8-part series hosted by Father Charles Connor of Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, premiered Sunday on EWTN.
The series begins with a visit to the St. Clement's Island in Southern Maryland where the first ever Catholic Mass was celebrated. Maryland, before the founding of the nation, was the only predominantly Catholic British colony. Leonard Calvert, following the death of his brother George Calvert to whom King James I had granted the charter for the proprietary colony of Maryland, brought a group of settlers to the colony on two ships. They landed on St. Clement's Island in 1632. Among them was a Jesuit priest named Andrew White.
It was Father White who offered the first Mass in the colony.
It was George Calvert’s friendship with the King that helped him secure the grant for Maryland. It was his reputation that helped his brother in securing the support of wealthy individuals for funding and staffing for the new colony. According to Father Connor, many of the Catholic members who has been part of the expedition, came over to escape the persecution that they were facing from the King and his Protestant faith.
Maryland offered them refuge. The religious persecution and the cooperation between the Protestant and Catholic colonists, all led to paving the foundation for the Maryland Toleration Act of 1649, one of the first religious toleration laws. The Act helped in building the framework of religious freedom.
As per Father Connor, understanding what the first Catholics in America and in Europe had to endure in the name of religion would help today's generation in understanding the importance of standing up for religious freedom.
Maryland was not the first place to have Catholic people in the United States. However, EWTN focused on the state because of the role that it played in both the American history and Catholic history in the U.S.
According to the producer of the television documentary, Greg Hendrick, “Catholicism in America originated in Maryland.” The state, which is an essential part of the United States history, is not only important to the Catholics but also to everyone who is interested in understanding or exploring the grounds on which religious tolerance and freedom were founded.