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In 1634, Jesuit missionary Father Andrew White and other colonists disembarked from the ships the Ark and the Dove and landed on St. Clement’s Island, Maryland. Seeking religious freedom in a time where the government of Great Britain was suppressing religions, Father White founded the parish at Chapel Point in 1641. Soon after founding the parish, Father White established a relationship with the Native Americans in the area. He learned to speak the language of the Piscataway people, giving him the ability to translate prayer and share his faith with the community. Father White would go on to eventually baptize the Chief of the Piscataway. The relationship between St. Ignatius parish and the Piscataway tribe is evident today, as some members of the tribe are current parishioners.

In the late 1640s, St. Thomas Manor was established. St. Thomas Manor consisted of 4,000 acres of property, which included the St. Ignatius church and a working farm, where revenue from the farm supported the Jesuit’s work throughout the colonies. With the establishment of this property, Catholics were able to attend services at the church undisturbed. Around 1690, the process began to move the church structures from the water’s edge to the nearby hilltop to protect from flooding and raids.

Today, the hilltop structure consists of the first hilltop residence, the Jesuit residence and manor house, the current church building and a brick chapel, which connects the manor house and church. Still a thriving location with daily church services, St. Ignatius Church, it’s historic cemetery and St. Thomas Manor House are a part of The Religious Freedom National Scenic Byway.

Credit: This story was contributed by Lucille Walker, Southern Maryland Heritage Area Director.