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
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,"
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.
The Legend of Our Lady of Miracles:
All about the OLM Society:
Bodo de Leite:
Newly Renovated GPS Hall:
Gustine Adopts Angra, Azores as Sister City:
Pictures of 2002 Festa:
2003 Pictures of OLM Parade of Queens
2003 Pictures of OLM Festa Bullfights