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Iron cross raised, Jesuits praised on Maryland Day


St. Mary's Commissioners' President Randy Guy, left, aids Jesuit priest and Maryland Day keynote speaker Father Ron Murphy with the display of an iron cross Maryland colonists planted on St. Clement's Island 385 years ago.

Colton's Point, MD - A long-lost artifact from the voyage of The Ark and The Dove 385 years ago was displayed March 25 at St. Clement’s Island Museum by the Jesuit priest who claimed he “stumbled upon it” 30 years ago. Father Ron Murphy S.J. gave the large crowd gathered at the museum an overview of how he discovered a four-foot tall, two-foot wide, 24-pound iron cross at Georgetown University after learning of its location in a New Jersey church. The Jesuit priest also theorized about where the cross was made and how it was displayed March 25, 1634—the day which proved to be the first Maryland Day. He also noted the cross has a prominent place on the Maryland flag. Murphy said the cross has been on display at the Smithsonian the past year while the university chapel where it is seen is renovated.

“What we’re celebrating here is an immigrant day,” said Father Murphy. Of the dangerous voyage the English settlers made to the colonies, navigating what is now the Potomac River and ending their voyage at what is today St. Clements Island, Murphy implored the crowd, “don’t ever forget about it. The one who carried that cross down the gangplank, it could have been one of your ancestors.” The cross was planted on the island by Father Andrew White S.J., who then led the settlers in a Mass of Thanksgiving.

Other event speakers included St. Mary’s County Commissioners’ President Randy Guy, who stated his ancestors came to America via The Ark and The Dove. State Senator Jack Bailey, noting the museum’s proximity to the oldest Catholic Church in the Colonies—St. Francis Xavier, which until 52 years ago had been run by the Jesuits—said the church’s presence in the community was significant. “So many of us grew up right here,” said Bailey. “It was a big deal having the Jesuits down here.” 

Other speakers included Piscataway Conoy Tribal Chair Francis Gray, who gave a Native American perspective of the colonization. Actor Wes Stone, who portrayed Father Andrew White during the ceremony, told the audience there were no hostilities between the natives and colonists in St. Mary’s. “Let us thank Mother Earth for all she has given us,” said Gray. “Our relationship is with the land.” According to a synopsis provided by museum staff, leaders of the colonists met with a Piscataway chief “and purchased 30 acres of land on which to settle. In exchange they presented the chieftain with axes, hatchets, hoes and some cloth.”

Maryland subsequently became a community established by and dedicated to, religious tolerance. In 1916, the Maryland legislature declared March 25 to be Maryland Day.

Also addressing the audience were Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and Gubernatorial Representative Gretchen Hardman. Both presented proclamations to museum officials.

Members of the Father Andrew White, SJ School Chorus, under the direction of Jody Cacko, sang “Maryland, My Maryland.” St. Mary’s Ryken High School student Sarah Skane led the audience in the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner. Posting of the Colors was conducted by Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship Honor Guard.

To learn more about St. Clement’s Island Museum click here.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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