“On the day of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, in the year 1634, we celebrated on this island the first Mass which had been offered up in this part of the world. After we had completed the Sacrifice, we took upon our shoulders a great cross which we had shaped out of a tree and advancing in order to the appointed place, with the assistance of the Governor and his associates and the other Catholics, we erected a trophy to Christ the Savior, humbly reciting on our knees the Litanies of the Holy Cross with great emotion”Father Andrew White, S.J.,
from Relatio Itineris Marilandinis
On Sunday October 31, 2010 the sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Juniorate House of Formation began their annual All Saints Day pilgrimage. After the sisters attended Holy Mass and came home from their Sunday apostolate they set out on their adventure. This year the pilgrimage took them to the shores of Southern Maryland, the place that is considered as the cradle of Catholicism in the Eastern United States. In the year 1634 Fr. Andrew White S.J. set out to the New World in the hopes of bringing the Gospel to a land known for its abundant territory, native peoples in need of evangelization, and for its Catholics who were fleeing the persecutions in Europe. It was on St. Clement’s Island where the first recorded Catholic Mass in the British colonies was celebrated and from there an entire city sprung up because of the ardent desire to be free to worship and pray as Catholics.
The pilgrimage did not include an actual tour of the island but there was an opportunity of visiting a museum which was built in honor of the historic event and from there the island could be seen. It is providentially nestled between Maryland and Virginia providing a spectacular panoramic perspective of what that small British fleet from 1634 would have seen as it approached the two soon-to-be colonies. Because of erosion the island itself is much smaller now than it was in the 1600’s but it is being preserved as an historic site cherished by the faithful in the state of Maryland.
That night we attended holy hour and sung vespers of the vigil of All Saints Day at the parish of the Holy Angels. It was a wonderful opportunity to begin our pilgrimage in such a solemn prayerful spirit.
The members of the Sodality of Our Lady of Fatima (from the city of Avenue located along the shores of Southern Maryland which is directly across from St. Clemet’s Island) were so kind and hospitable to us in providing our lodging and dinner for that night. Early the next day we set out for Holy Mass and Adoration followed by breakfast at Sacred Heart Parish in Bushwood. After breakfast we made our way to St. Mary’s City—the first permanent settlement and capital of the colony of Maryland. We had the great opportunity to be able to visit the site where the first Catholic chapel in Maryland was built. The chapel of St. Mary’s city has had quite a history of prosperity and demolition, of Catholic practice and of complete prohibition and now of being restored with the hope of once again being used as an authentic place of worship and prayer. The priests and faithful of that time endured persecutions with courage are an example to us of the fruits of enduring all for love of Christ.
Then finally our pilgrimage was to be concluded with a visit to the church of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Chapel Point, the longest continuing Jesuit Parish in Maryland’s Catholic history. After we sang vespers, a parishioner gave us a brief talk about the history of the parish and of its rich Jesuit tradition and influence in the area. She also informed us that when the Jesuits traveled from England they were armed with a relic of the True Cross of Christ! This Parish is the home of the relic. We were then given the grace to be able to venerate a relic of the True Cross. With the veneration of the True Cross we concluded our pilgrimage and made our way back home to Washington D.C. However, our pilgrimage has not ended as we continue our daily journey towards eternal life. We are encouraged and strengthened by the stories we heard and the people we met to continue to live for love of Christ crucified.
May this grace be obtained for us through the prayers of our Lady, Queen of all the Saints.