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In 1717, a prominent Jesuit priest handed over a sprawling Maryland plantation controlled by his Catholic order to a new owner. Amid the hogs and milk cows, candlesticks and chalices were 15 enslaved men, women and children.
The Jesuits soon regained control of the estate and their human property. But the handwritten deed, the oldest known record of Jesuit slaveholding in Maryland, made plain what some settlers already knew: The Jesuits had turned to the enslavement of human beings to help fuel the growth of the early Catholic Church.
Frank Campbell, Peter Hawkins and Mary Elizabeth Gough supported Jesuit missions, churches and schools all across the country, in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Kentucky, Louisiana, Alabama, Illinois and Kansas, Jesuit records show.