Published on the New Bedford Standard-Times. March 31, 2002

Organizers say museum is on track

by Pedro Amaral
With the Portuguese government in transition, the future Holy Ghost Museum of Fall River might seem to be at an impasse, but its leaders claim that all is going according to plan.
Almost three years ago, Jaime Gama, Portuguese foreign minister of the moderate Social Party, promised to support such a project with $500,000.
Also at that time, the New England Holy Ghost Feast Committee chose an installing panel to oversee the initial steps to create the museum. The statutes and bylaws were defined, and the new institution was registered as the Holy Ghost Museum.
The Fall River Diocese, through Bishop Sean P. O'Malley, offered to donate a vacant church building near John F. Kennedy Park to house the museum, and all seemed to be running smoothly. But on March 17, Portugal held early elections that shifted its government to the right, toward the more conservative Social Democrats, leading people to speculate in the validity of the promise made by the outgoing minister.
Heitor Sousa, feast organizer and chief museum promoter, said he expects the new minister, to be named sometime in April, to follow through on his predecessor's pledge.
"I have been in contact with the office of Minister Gama, and I was assured that the pledge should continue," Mr. Sousa said. "But, of course we have to wait and see who is going to fill the post, and what position will be taken by the new government. We have a very good relationship with the social democrats. Dr. Mota Amaral, who is lined up to be the next president of the Republic Assembly, and Pedro Santana Lopes, mayor of Lisbon, for example, are personal friends we can count on," Mr. Sousa said.
"I'm sure everyone agrees the museum will be an important link for the communities on both sides of the Atlantic, and as such, it should receive all the support from the Portuguese authorities."
Fall River City Councilor Al Alves is in charge of the museum's Installing Committee and he said the recent shift in power has not affected the group's plans.
"We have had architects come and study the feasibility of transforming the old temple into a modern and functional learning institution," Mr. Alves said. "One of the estimates calls for an investment of near 2 million dollars. The offer from the Portuguese Government is about one-fourth of the needed funds, and although it is a very generous and appreciated offer, it is not enough to get the museum up and running."
Mr. Alves said the committee sent the museum plans, along with a letter of intent from the diocese, to central government in Lisbon, as well as to the Azorean government, asking to help get the project off the ground. He said in addition, the committee is forming a subcommittee that would be in charge of raising money to fund the project and to help maintain the museum once it is operating.
"Currently, our lawyer is working with the diocese's layer to resume the building transfer, Mr. Alves said. "Once the transfer is completed, we will move with the fund-raising activities. We already have some organizations and individuals lined with donations. But these things have to move in the proper order. People want to see something tangible before committing to large amounts of money and valuable articles. We want to start the fund-raising phase before the annual feast, which is during the last weekend of August, and by next year we hope the museum dream will be a reality."
Mr. Alves said his commitment to the installing committee ends as soon as the initial phase is consummated and new directors are elected.
"There is no timetable," he said. "But I believe within a year, my job will be complete and the initial board of directors elected by the Great New England Holy Ghost Feast will take control of the museum operations as a separate identity from the feast. This is a very exciting project for everyone involved with it. I did not realize how complex and laborious this was going to be, but it is worth the effort. This will be wonderful cultural addition to our area and a legacy for future generations," Mr. Alves said.

Photo: L-R,  Jose Costa, Al Alves, Caetano Valadão Serpa and Lourdes Serpa

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