The presence of Jesuits in the East Coast dates to 1611, when Fr. Pierre Biard, SJ, explored the rivers of Maine and offered the first recorded Mass at the mouth of the Kennebec River. Returning with three other Jesuits in 1613, he founded Saint Saviour Mission at Fernald Point, in Southwest Harbor, Maine.
In 1634, Fr. Andrew White, SJ, landed in the Catholic colony of Maryland and established a mission there as part of the English Province. He celebrated the first Catholic Mass in the colonies on St. Clements Island.
In 1789 Georgetown University was founded by Fr. John Carroll, SJ. It is both the oldest Jesuit college and the oldest Catholic college in the country. In 1833 the Maryland Province became the first Jesuit province in the United States.
In 1846, French Jesuits arrived in New York City from Kentucky at the invitation of then Archbishop Hughes to assume responsibility for a small college and seminary, St. John’s, which he had founded north of the city. The assumption of this responsibility marked not only the beginning of Fordham University, but also the start of the New York-Canada Mission.
Although the Jesuits of the Mission did good work, the problems associated with operating across linguistic and cultural boundaries proved to be significant. In 1879, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus disbanded the New York-Canada mission and gave responsibility for the American section to the Maryland Province which was renamed the Maryland-New York Province.
By the twentieth century, the Jesuits were strongly established in the Northeast. In Western New York, the German Province had established a Buffalo Mission to serve the large number of German immigrants in the region. The Jesuits founded two parishes in the 1850’s and then Canisius College in 1870. The Maryland-New York Province was given responsibility for these works in 1907. Originally part of the Maryland-New York Province, the New England Province became a separate province in 1926.
In 1943, Maryland and New York were separated with New York retaining responsibility for all of New York and part of northern New Jersey. New York itself was split with the establishment of the Buffalo Province in 1960 which assumed responsibility for the works of the Society in upstate New York. With the changes that occurred in the Church and in American society in the 1960s, there was a decline in vocations which lead to the reincorporation of the Buffalo Province into the New York Province in 1969.
In 2014, after years of strategic planning, the USA Northeast Province was formed when the New England and New York Provinces united.
On July 31, 2020 (the Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola), the Maryland and USA Northeast Provinces of the Society of Jesus canonically came together to form a new, single province—the USA East Province of the Society of Jesus. It is the largest province in the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, comprising more than 600 Jesuits, 11 colleges and universities, 26 middle and high schools, 17 parishes, 6 retreat centers and 2 international schools.