Laura Masur on Thursday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m. will give the free public lecture, “Why Maryland? A Curious Tale of Jesuit Priests and an Unlikely Mission,” at Historic St. Mary’s City.
The evening lecture will be held inside the visitor center auditorium on Hogaboom Lane in St. Mary’s City.
“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,” Masur wrote when asked about this topic. 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.”
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, according to a release from Historic St. Mary’s City.
Her dissertation, entitled “Priestly Plantations: An Archaeology of Capitalism and Community in British North America,” integrates historical research with archaeological survey from Jesuit plantations in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Masur’s research focuses on the intersection of environments, economies, and communities in the Chesapeake and Middle Atlantic regions.