Why Maryland? A Curious Tale of Jesuit Priests and an Unlikely Mission

News Release, Historic St. Mary’s City

On September 19 at 7 p.m., Laura Masur, Ph.D., will give a free, public lecture titled “Why Maryland? A Curious Tale of Jesuit Priests and an Unlikely Mission.” When asked about this topic, Ms. Masur wrote, “The Society of Jesus was among the earliest investors in the Maryland colony. Jesuits established missions among indigenous peoples’ communities, built churches, and converted Protestant colonists, funding these exploits through an expansive system of tobacco plantations.

They faced constant setbacks during the colonial period: violent rebellions, property damage, financial troubles, legal battles, and according to most historians, the failure of Indian missions. Why did the Jesuits stay in Maryland? The answer lies in small devotional objects like crucifixes, medals, statues, and rosaries found at archaeological sites throughout the region.

These objects can be mapped within a network of missions, and their presence at American Indian and African American sites underscores the vast scope of the Jesuits’ Maryland mission between the seventeenth and early twentieth centuries. Jesuit missions enabled the growth of Catholic communities among enslaved Africans, tenant farmers, laborers, and elites, while entrenched in transformations of the Chesapeake agricultural economy.”

Laura E. Masur is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the Catholic University of America

Laura E. Masur is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She received her B.A. and M.A. from the College of William and Mary, and her Ph.D. from Boston University in 2019. Her dissertation, entitled “Priestly Plantations: An Archaeology of Capitalism and Community in British North America,” integrates historical research with the archaeological survey from Jesuit plantations in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Laura’s research focuses on the intersection of environments, economies, and communities in the Chesapeake and Middle Atlantic regions.

The evening lecture will be held inside the Visitor Center Auditorium, 18751 Hogaboom Lane, St. Mary’s City, MD 20686. This lecture will be free and open to the public.

Historic St. Mary’s City is a museum of living history and archaeology on the site of Maryland’s first capital in beautiful, tidewater Southern Maryland.  For more information about the museum, contact the Visitor Center at 240-895-4990, 800-SMC-1634, Info@DigsHistory.org, or visit our website at HSMCdigsHistory.org.


David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...