From March 20th to the 24th I was in Bowie, Maryland, at Ascension Parish preaching a parish mission. The parish has its roots in colonial Catholicism, a “priestless, popeless, sisterless” church, according to historian James O’Toole, in his book “The Faithful: A History of the American Catholic Church.
Some who attended the mission were descendants of those early Catholics who settled in Maryland, and I expressed my admiration for the fidelity of their ancestors who kept the faith alive in their homes when few priests and hardly any sisters were there to minister to them. Anti-Catholic laws in the colony also penalized Catholics. Through much of that time, the popes were tied by European politics and could pay little attention to the New World.
Those early Catholic Marylanders were faithful to prayer and to the basic truths handed down to them through their catechisms.
I’m interested in that early church because it may be a model of our church in the future, with fewer priests and sisters and a growing secularism that will reduce the number of churchgoers in our country and the western world.
Seems to me, Catholics need to strengthen their prayer lives and learn their catechisms to survive in the future. Nearby Ascension Parish is the old church of the Sacred Heart from 1741 (picture above) and there were catechism classes going on there when I visited on Tuesday afternoon. Keep it up.
I based my mission on the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, which is a nice blend of doctrine and biographies of people of faith who have influenced the growth of the church in America and I spoke about St. Elizabeth Seton, Peter, Mary the Mother of Jesus, and St. Paul of the Cross during the mission. The catechism is a good one and I wish it were used more in our church.
After the mission, I went to Baltimore to visit the beautiful little house on Paca Street where Mother Seton lived and made her first religious vows after her arrival from New York City.
So important to know our ancestors in the faith as we go into the future.