Cardinal Wuerl Celebrates 375 Years of Catholicism in Piscataway

Sunday, July 5, 2015

WASHINGTON – St. Mary’s Church of Piscataway in Clinton celebrates 375 years of Catholicism in Prince George’s County and Southern Maryland this year. Today, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington celebrated a special Mass to commemorate Jesuit Father Andrew White’s July 5, 1640 baptism of the Tayac (chief) of the Piscataway Indians and a number of tribal leaders and members. This baptism that occurred 375 years ago is generally recognized as the acceptance of Catholicism by the leadership and members of the Piscataway Native Americans, and it is since that time that the Piscataway Indians have been a predominately Catholic tribe.

“Woven into the culture of the members of the tribe today is the Catholic faith that forms such a significant part of tribal members’ identity,” said Cardinal Wuerl in his homily. “Our celebration recognizes not only the beginning of evangelization in the English-speaking New World but its faith-filled tradition enduring today. The history of the Church – of the Catholic faith in Maryland goes back just a few years earlier than the Baptism of the Piscataway Tayac. In 1634, the Ark and the Dove landed at Saint Clement’s Island on March 25 and large cross was erected and Mass was celebrated by Father Andrew White.”

The cardinal referenced the Mass celebrated a year ago on St. Clement’s Island for the archdiocese’s 75th anniversary, saying it was a renewal of our faith commitment. “Today, we do the same thing here at Saint Mary’s. We come together to celebrate our participation in the life-giving redemptive mystery of Jesus’ death and Resurrection.” The celebration today, the cardinal continued, reminds us that “we are part of a wider/Universal Catholic Church throughout the whole world. We celebrate our part of the spiritual gift that is the Church, our family, as we make our way through life, eventually to Heaven. Our spiritual history, our history as a faith family, our history as the Church, begins with the coming of Jesus. We identify ourselves as a faith community as people who accept Jesus, his Gospel, his teaching and follow him in the hope of someday joining him forever in the glory of his heavenly Father.”

Referring to the Gospel reading for the day, the cardinal said Jesus himself reminds us that only with the eyes of faith can we see beyond what appears to be the ordinary things of life and ordinary people and grasp the very presence of God. “What the friends and neighbors of Jesus saw was someone they knew. And yet, Jesus was so much more. The disciples who began to see with the eyes of faith recognized this was God’s Son come among us. With the same heart opened in faith to God’s Word we also recognize: who Jesus is, what he accomplished for us, our salvation, and how we continue to share in that mystery through the sacraments, especially Baptism and Eucharist,” said the cardinal. “This is why we begin our commemoration of the 375 years of Saint Mary in Piscataway with the Baptism of the Tayac and family and Piscataway leadership.”

“What we celebrate today, then, is the fidelity of this portion of God’s family to the mission of the Church to God’s plan,        to God’s Word, to God’s sacramental presence with us, and to the recognition of our identity as God’s family. But we do not just celebrate the past and look back on the accomplishments of the parish,” said the cardinal. “Today, we look also to the present moment and to the future. Our celebration today is of the faith — and of this family, this community — that has fostered and loved the faith,” he said, and reminded the faithful gathered that we also must be ready to address the future full of faith. “Congratulations on these 375 years of Catholic faith in Piscataway. Let us look forward to the future with faith and confidence. Let us give thanks to God: for all that has been, for what is now and for what is yet to come.”


The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

Chieko Noguchi
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