Getting two days to celebrate 383 years
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@ hsmcdigshistory.org.
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.