Facts about the Church in early America

San Miguel Chapel, Santa Fe, N.M. Photo by MR Twister/Shutterstock

Take some time this Independence Day to teach your family about the early history of the Catholic Church in the United States. May God bless America!

Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737–1832) 

Carroll was a delegate to the Continental Congress, representing Maryland. While he did not participate in the vote for independence, he was present for the signing of the final Declaration of Independence. He is the only Roman Catholic to have signed the document. Carroll was also the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, living to the age of 95.

Archbishop John Carroll of Baltimore (1735–1815)

The second cousin of Charles Carroll, he was the first bishop and later archbishop in the United States. At the time of its creation, the Diocese of Baltimore encompassed the entire nation. He also founded Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., the oldest Catholic and Jesuit institution of higher learning in the United States.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Baltimore

The Baltimore Basilica was the first Roman Catholic cathedral to be built in the United States. Constructed from 1806–1821 under the guidance of Archbishop John Carroll, the basilica is considered the masterpiece of Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1764–1820), who is regarded as the father of American architecture. The basilica has been the site of many important events in the history of the Church in the United States, including Charles Carroll’s funeral Mass in 1832. The basilica is a co-cathedral, serving as one of the seats of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. For more information, visit AmericasFirstCathedral.org.

San Miguel Chapel, Santa Fe, New Mexico

San Miguel Chapel is thought to be the oldest church in the continental United States, with records of its existence dating back to 1628. Oral history says that around 1610 the chapel was constructed. The chapel has undergone rebuilding and restoration several times during the past 400 years, with the current building dating back to 1710. However, there have been significant structural changes. The chapel remains in use today, welcoming visitors for prayer and Mass. You can learn more at SanMiguelChapel.org.

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