The first successful Franciscan mission in our country was also the cradle of the Franciscan Order in the United States of America. Both began in 1573 in the Spanish province of La Florida, a territory that included all of eastern North America along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The first Franciscan friars in La Florida landed at the Spanish settlement of Santa Elena on Parris Island, South Carolina. In La Florida, 70 friars were authorized by the Spanish Crown to serve 26,000 Christianized Indians in 40 missions.
Today monuments stand at the edge of the golf course on the United States Marine Base at Parris Island marking the excavated ruins of two Spanish forts that protected Santa Elena. It is important to note that the first enduring Christian community in teh United States was the Franciscan parish of St. Augustine. The beautiful, Spanish-style Cathedral-Basilica of St. Augustine rightly cherishes its honor as our country's oldest parish and the cradle of the Catholic Church in the United States of America. (1)
(1) "The Cradle of the Church and Franciscan Order in the USA," by Thomas Murphy, O.F.M.