The Legend of
Our Lady of Miracles
The Our Lady of Miracles Celebration
was brought to Gustine, California
from Serreta, Terceira
The devotion to "Our Lady of Miracles" began in 1694
with his soul and spirit. Apparently, he tried
to hide himself away to mediate on the eternal truths.
Not far from the present site of the church, the
village called Serreta, at the "Canada das Vinhas",
he erected a small chapel and placed a small statue
of Our Lady there.
After the priest died, the little chapel was neglected,
and abandoned. The people of the village made a
larger chapel, but without faith and assistance,
it also failed. Then the priest from a nearby
village called "Doze Ribeiras" moved the statue
to his church.
An order was received from the Marques do Pombal in
1764 for the Island of Terceira to prepare itself to
defend its coastline. They were afraid the conflict
between Spain and France, against England, would
include an attack and invasion upon the Azores.
Various people, among them military officers, went
immediately to inspect the Island. Arriving at
Doze Ribeiras, they entered the church and saw
the statue of Our Lady. At once they promised
that as long as they lived they would honor her
every year with a celebration if their island would
be spared from attack. They chose the title of
"Escravos de Nossa Senhora" (Slaves of Our Lady).
On September 13, 1772, the so called "slaves" decided
to build another chapel in Serreta. In 1797, the
island was once again threatened by the French.
At this time, a general plan to reconstruct the
walls of the ruined chapel in Serreta was planned.
After the chapel was reconstructed, the statue
was brought back to the original place at Serreta.
Eventually in 1842, a church was completed in Serreta
and on December 24, 1861, the bishop declared the
village of Serreta to be a separate independent parish.
From then on, the celebrations to Our Lady of
Miracles continued to grow larger each year.
The present church in Serreta, where the original
statue is now, was started on April 29, 1895,
and blessed upon its completion on August 31, 1907.
Many years later, in 1980, an earthquake destroyed
most of the church. The wall that contained niches
for many statues survived, although every statue,
except Our Lady's, fell and was broken. Our Lady
remained miraculously in place and undamaged.
As the years passed, the pilgrimage to Serreta expanded
into a moving and joyous celebration of faith.
The faithful would come to participate in the novenas,
processions, pilgrimages, and the night-long vigil
devotions which concluded with Mass the next morning.
Other festive customs were included in the Festa:
the Bodo de Leite (blessing of the cows), milk and
sweetbread being shared; Cantoria ao Desafio
(singer challenging each other in song); bullfights
and more dancing and singing. These were the highlight
of the annual celebration to Our Lady of Miracles in Serreta.
Eventually the Celebration was brought to the
United States by Mr. Manuel B. Sousa, an Azorean
immigrant to the small town of Gustine, California
where his family still lives. And the
"legend" of Our Lady of Miracles lives on......

OLM Celebration reflects deep devotion,
long-standing traditions of the Portuguese faithful

By Julie Rose, Mattos Newspapers
June 28, 2007

GUSTINE - The population in Gustine triples the second
week of September as crowds converge on the community
for the OLM Celebration, as they have each year
since 1936.

A Portuguese tradition from the Azorean island of
Terceira started in the mid 1700s, the Celebration
was brought to the community of gustine by a group
of immigrants dedicated to the celebration of faith.

Azorean immigrant, Manuel B. Souza experienced the
local celebration during a visit to his home village
on Terceira. The spirituality of the devotion and
the gathering of the people gave him the desire to
bring the tradition home to his fellow Azorean
community in Gustine.

(The history of OLM and Serreta is stated above) As
years passed, the pilgrimage to Serreta expended
into a moving and joyous celebration of faith.
The faithful would come to participate in the
novenas, processions, pilgrimages, and the night-long
vigil devotions which concluded with Mass the next
morning. Other festive customs were included in
the festa: the Bodo de Leite (blessing of the cows),
milk and sweet gread being shared; Cantoria ao Desafio
(singers challening each other in song), bullfights
and more dancing and singing. These were the
highlights of the annual celebration of Our Lady of
Miracles in Serreta, Terceira.

When Souza returned from his visit, he suggested to
some of his friends that Gustine should have such
a celebration here in the States. He commissioned
the statue to be made, duplicating the one in
Terceira and the group of local men worked diligently
to organize the first celebration and include the
many traditional events just as in Terceira.

The celebration is based in a devotion to Mary, but
is also an opportunity for the Portuguese faithful
to gather and celebrate with family and friends,
and to carry the culture forward.

"It is a time of thanksgiving for the good fortune
and good health in their lives," explained Olivia
Amaral, daughter-in-law to Souza and long-time resident.

She and her husband, Frank, have been involved with
the celebration since its beginning.

There are many festas in the USA but, Our Lady of
Miracles celebration is one of a kind in the USA.
They were the first to host a bullfight and to
bring in authentic singers from the Azores.
"People would come just to hear the singers,"
Amaral said. "Their singing is a real art.
It is conversation in song, never written,
all spontaneous and characteristic of the island.
It drew the people to the celebration.

A chance to meet and gather is another draw for
who attend the week long event. "People look
forward to seeing others who make the annual trip
here," commented Amaral. There are so many festas
these days, often many on the same weekend. The
OLM celebration is the only on held on the second
Sunday in September, which alleviated the conflict
of choosing which Festa to attend. Plus, the
attendance is so high, the numberous Portuguese
organizations want to participate and have their
devotion represented. "We offer more events and
entertainment than any other celebration," said
Amaral. "From the singing and dancing, the great
food to the bullfights and of course, the Terceira
singers that welcome in and bid farewell to Our
Lady on Saturday and Sunday, it is a wonderfully
packed extended weekend for people from all over
to celebrate together."

Although there is a lot of fun and festivity,
afterall it is a celebration, there is a deeply
religious aspect to the gathering.

The spiritual dedication of the thousands of
people who annually make their pilgrimage to
Gustine's OLM Celebration is evident through
the novenas, masses, and the candlelight procession.
The 4 a.m. Sunday Mass is still another deeply
moving moment for those gathered to show their
devotion. "My favorite part of the Festa is the
time I spend working in the chapel at the park,"
Amaral remarked.

She has been privileged to hear many stories from
visitors from all over the country. They tell her
how many years they've been coming and what it
means to them, and she hears amazing accounts of
how Our Lady has worked in their lives and the
deep devotion they have. "It is the biggest
display of our faith," she reflected.

Kathryn Castro Maffei
870 Meredith Avenue
Gustine, CA 95322
United States

kim2848@aol.com

LINKS

The Legend of Our Lady of Miracles:

All about the OLM Society:

The Monsignor Myron Cotta Page:

Bodo de Leite:

Newly Renovated GPS Hall:

Gustine Adopts Angra, Azores as Sister City:

2004 Festa:

Pictures of 2002 Festa:

2003 Pictures of OLM Parade of Queens

2003 Pictures of OLM Festa Bullfights

Kathy

"Hozana"
Played by Kathryn Maffei
from A Collection of OLM Hymns CDs