The 16th annual Holy Ghost Feast closed Monday

The Standard-Times

Luso Life, By Pedro Amaral

September 2, 2001

The 16th annual New England Holy Ghost Feast drew to a close Monday night with a banquet for 700 people at the Whites of Westport restaurant. The festive mood was well visible across the room when the philharmonic band Recreio Espirituense, of Santa Maria, Azores, marched into the hall playing a lively tune, followed by the Holy Spirit Hymn, and the anthems of the Azores, Portugal and the United States. Then, it came a rousing ovation for ailing Heitor Sousa, the founder and chief promoter of the feast, who insisted in being present with his family at the closing gala. Next, a note from the installing committee of the new museum was read, announcing that the Espirito Santo (Holy Spirit) museum had been incorporated according to the Massachusetts laws and that its statutes and by-laws had been completed. “As of now, Mr. Sousa’s vision is a reality to preserve our past and to enhance our future,” the note said.

Then, one by one the honored guest spoke of faith, courage, love for one’s roots and the civility they were allowed to witness during the previous four days.

Joao Gaspar de Almeida, secretary for the Portuguese communities worldwide, said he would never had believed that thousands of people would lineup streets in America to witness a Portuguese event if he had not seen it firsthand. He said he was impressed with the magnitude of the festivities and with coordinating abilities of the emigrant community.

            “A community is stronger when it is united, and a united community can achieve anything it wants,” Mr. Almeida said.

Dr. Manuel Luciano da Silva, of Bristol RI, was representative of the local communities. He asked if anyone knew who was the first Azorean to visit Fall River.

            “It was Miguel Corte Real,” he said. “And the proof is on the etchings he left on the Dighton Rock a few miles north of here. His name, the crosses of the Order of Christ, and the Portuguese coat of arm are there to testify of his presence and of his men.”

Dr. Silva took the opportunity to remind the local authorities that the new bridge under construction to replace the old Brightman Street Bridge should be named Miguel Corte Real. “The first known European to leave his name in the Fall River area.”

Among the guests sitting at the head table was Dr. Vasco Pereira da Costa, director of tourism and culture in Coimbra, Portugal, and his wife. Mrs. da Costa witnessed the feast for the first time and she said she was in awe of everything she saw.

            “I am absolutely enchanted with all I have seen in the last few days,” she said. “I was born in Madeira but I live in Estoril (mainland Portugal) and I had no idea this fervor existed so far away from Portugal. I took part on everything that went on, from the bodo de leite on Saturday to the Solemn Mass on Sunday. I walked the procession route, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Everything was so well organized, so detailed. I’m amazed of how coordinated and organized everything was. The community is to be congratulated for such a huge success,” she said.

Jose Rocha, the outgoing committee chairman, said this year’s feast shattered all previous records of attendance.

            “We have to credit the gorgeous weather the Holy Spirit provided for us during the festivities and also the bands, the folklore groups, and the hundreds of volunteers who anonymously and unselfishly contributed to the success of this year’s feast. We also had 20 buses full f people coming from Canada, four philharmonic bands and two folklore groups and their families arriving from the Azores.”

Other speaking guests included Bishop Sean P. O’Malley, Fall River Diocese; Archbishop of Benevento Manuel Monteiro de Castro, Apostolic Nuncio of Spain; Joao B. Mota Amaral, former regional president of the Azores, and vice president of the Portuguese Republic Assembly (Parliament); Alzira Serpa Silva, director of the Azorean communities worldwide; and Eng. Jose Lello, minister of youth and sports representing Antonio Guterres, Portuguese prime minister.

            Also present at the closing dinner were New Bedford’s Mayor Frederick M. Kalisz, Jr.; state senator Joan Menard, representatives Antonio F. D. Cabral, and Michael Rodrigues, sheriff Thomas Hodgsons, Fall River city counselors Al Alves and Joe Camara.  

The weekend also proved to be boom for local businesses. Luis Silva of Connors Travel, in Fall River said most of the hotels and motels between Providence and Fairhaven were booked solid for that weekend.

“People would call from Canada, and Bermuda asking to find them rooms in the area, but it was practically impossible to find anything decent between Fairhaven and Providence,” he said.”

(Pedro Amaral can be reached at 123 Ames St., Fall River, MA 02721,  or at Lusolife @apol.net.)

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