Get­ting two days to cel­e­brate 383 years

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

Happy birth­day, Mary­land. No of­fense, but it would take quite a large Smith Is­land cake to hold all those can­dles.

There are two big com­mem­o­ra­tions of Mary­land Day this weekend, mark­ing the 383rd an­niver­sary of its found­ing.

We’ve all heard the tale by now, but it’s still well worth telling. Af­ter a hard cross­ing of the At­lantic from England dur­ing the win­ter, set­tlers aboard the Ark and Dove sailed up the Po­tomac River, and landed at St. Cle­ment’s Is­land in 1634. There, on the Feast of the An­nun­ci­a­tion, March 25, 1634, Fa­ther An­drew White cel­e­brated what is be­lieved to be the first Mass by English-speak­ing people in the New World.

Mary­land was es­tab­lished as a haven from the reli­gious per­se­cu­tion that was dog­ging Europe in the 17th cen­tury. Mary­land was among the first of the British colonies to al­low “free­dom of con­science,” which to Catholics and Protes­tants alike meant free­dom of wor­ship. It was a novel idea four cen­turies ago — es­pe­cially when you con­sider that no­tion meant reli­gious free­dom for men and women alike.

St. Mary’s County is home to the first colo­nial cap­i­tal of the prov­ince, as well as the site of the first State House. This was where, al­most 400 years ago, the first ses­sions of the Gen­eral Assem­bly of Mary­land were held.

The first of Mary­land’s two birth­day par­ties will be cel­e­brated on the main­land at St. Cle­ment’s Is­land Mu­seum in Colton’s Point to­day, Fri­day, March 24, just a good stone’s throw from where it all be­gan, out on the is­land. The cer­e­monies will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. Mary­land Sec­re­tary of Plan­ning Wendi Peter will be the key­note speaker, county com­mis­sion­ers will of­fer re­marks and there will be a wreath-lay­ing cer­e­mony. For more in­for­ma­tion, call the mu­seum at 301-769-2222.

And of course, His­toric St. Mary’s City will host its own shindig to­mor­row, Satur­day, March 25, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A cer­e­mony at 1 p.m. on the lawn of the Re­con­structed State House of 1676 will be­gin with a wel­come from Francis Gray, tribal chair of the Pis­cat­away Conoy, fol­lowed by an ad­dress from Sen. Steve Waugh (R-St. Mary’s, Calvert). The event also will fea­ture stu­dents from each of the 23 coun­ties in Mary­land and Bal­ti­more city, for a col­or­ful pre­sen­ta­tion of county flags. Mu­seum ad­mis­sion will be free, in honor of the day. For more in­for­ma­tion, call 240-895-4990 or send email to info@ hsm­cdigshis­

And you can end the day with a com­bi­na­tion of the his­toric and the sa­cred, if that’s your bent. A Mass will be held at St. Ig­natius Church, lo­cated on Villa Road in St. Ini­goes, on Satur­day at 5 p.m. Vis­i­tors may also walk through the ceme­tery, one of the old­est in Amer­ica, where Je­suit fa­thers, Catholic an­ces­tors, as well as sev­eral sol­diers of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion are buried.

Some Mary­lan­ders liv­ing out­side of St. Mary’s might let the day pass with­out real­iz­ing its im­por­tance. Mary­land has grown far be­yond that small ini­tial set­tle­ment. But let’s not for­get what that small group did, even as the date gets fur­ther and fur­ther away.

Free­dom of con­science. Free­dom of re­li­gion. It’s im­por­tant to note and cel­e­brate those and all of the other free­doms we en­joy. All of that, and we have a re­ally cool flag, too. Ex­tra points if you can tell which part of the flag is the Calvert fam­ily coat of arms and which be­longs to the Cross­land fam­ily.

So happy birth­day, Mary­land. You’re look­ing bet­ter than ever.

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