Published on the New Bedford Standard-Times. March 31, 2002
Organizers say museum is on track
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
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
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.
Jose Costa, Al Alves, Caetano Valadão Serpa and Lourdes Serpa