Defending Religious Liberty in Libertytown

The pilgrim icon of Our Lady visited St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Libertytown, MD on September 27th.  The region has an interesting history.   In 1608, William Coale left his native England as a Catholic seeking religious freedom in the New World.   By the time he arrived in Jamestown he had become a Quaker.  When colonists in Virginia began persecuting anyone who was not a member of the Church of England he fled to Maryland before the arrival of Fr. Andrew White and the Calvert family on St. Clement’s Island on the Ark and the Dove in 1634.  Later, the Coale family converted back to Catholicism and began a long and happy association with Lord Baltimore and the Calvert family.


In 1718, Maryland enacted penal laws against Catholics.  Lord Baltimore purchased large tracts of land near the Pennsylvania border where Catholics could live in safety.   In the early 1700’s, Catholics in this area were served by Jesuit priests, riding on horseback from Southern Maryland.   They built "Mass Houses" instead of churches because it was against the law for Catholics to build churches during this period.  Libertytown was originally named “Duke’s Woods”, but changed its name fervor due to its overwhelming support for independence during the American Revolutionary War.  After the Revolution, Catholics could live in freedom.  The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. 


The Coale family donated the land and money for the first stone church to be built.  Another larger church that was built in 1871 was destroyed by fire in 2004.  So the current St. Peter the Apostle Church is the third church to be built on the grounds. 


The pilgrim icon came to St. Peter the Apostle Church in Libertytown after visiting St. Mary’s in York, Pennsylvania.   Many people came from the surrounding area to see the icon.  Some had seen her before at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Emmitsburg and had prayed with me at the abortion mill in Frederick.  They were happy to see her again.  Others had missed her in Emmitsburg and were happy that the icon had come back to the area. 


Fr. Jason Worley, the pastor, offered the 9:00 A.M. Mass and I gave a presentation on the icon after Mass.  One of the points I addressed was that today our religious liberty is threatened by politicians who, under the HHS Mandate, would have us pay for contraception and abortifacient drugs.  We need to pray to Our Lady and ask her to defend life and restore religious liberty.


The night before, I stayed with a family at a local farm.  I didn’t realize it, but a little four-year old girl who was being cared for by her grandmother had been hoping to meet me in the morning.  I missed her in the morning, but I waited until she came home from school to leave.  I showed her the icon, gave her a simple explanation of it and gave her a holy card.  I also blessed her house, her dog, her mother’s truck and some tomatoes that were growing in her garden.  I also sprinkled her a few times with holy water as she ran away laughing. The simple joy of a child and her love for life reminded me of the importance of defending life.


Fr. PeterWest

Vice President For Missions

Human Life International

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