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Catholic Information

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Pennsylvania and Maryland were the only American colonies that permitted the free exercise of Catholic worship, and in Pennsylvania certain restrictions applied.  A Test Act, enacted by the Crown in 1695 to bar Catholics from public office, remained in effect until the American revolution, but the Quakers of Pennsylvania prevented the enforcement of the English penal code against Catholic practices.   Technically, property ownership required citizenship and citizenship required making the Test Oath, which included denials of major tenets of Catholic faith.  Nevertheless, German Catholics found little difficulty in buying and holding land.  In 1733 the provincial council allowed the first public chapel in Philadelphia and the Catholic right to worship was never seriously challenged thereafter.

A spirit of distrust prevailed leading to the 1757 census of Catholics within Pennsylvania when they numbered a little more than 1300 of the total colony population of about 300,000.   The majority were German, with some of Irish or English derivation.

The first parochial school in the United States was established at Goshenhoppen in 1743 and the first Catholic cemetery in 1765.  Prior to that, family burial plots were typically used.



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