By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson – There was much talk of traditions and landmarks Sept. 13 and 14 as the Hudson Portuguese Club (HPC) marked its 75th anniversary of the Our Lady of Fatima Feast, which celebrates an apparition reported to have appeared to three children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917.
The weekend honoring HPC’s patron saint began Saturday evening at St. Michael Church with a Mass officiated by the Rev. Anthony Lalli of the Fatima Shrine in Holliston.
“This feast has united the community quite a bit,” he noted. “I hope that the younger people will continue this tradition. I’ve come to the feast for several years now, so I’ve become a part of it.”
Although a candlelight procession downtown was cancelled due to inclement weather, festivities continued inside HPC with a Portuguese boiled dinner. Live entertainment was provided by Band Faith, who received three nominations for this year’s International Portuguese Music Awards.
On Sunday, Lalli returned for a morning Mass at HPC’s Our Lady of Fatima Chapel, which has a rich history.
In 1951 a chapel was erected by the late John P. Rio. Nearby, a memorial monument was placed for Peter Francisco, an American Revolutionary War hero. The monument was dedicated during the Fatima Feast in 1971 by then Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Humberto Sousa Medeiros.
A fire damaged the chapel in the 1980s and a larger one was constructed. In 2001, the Our Lady of Fatima Feast observed the original chapel’s 50th anniversary with a tribute to its builder, Rio.
Juvenalia Chaves, a feast committee member, cites visits to Fatima, Portugal, as her most touching memories. She’s reminded of those visits when she passes HPC’s chapel with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
“Every day when I come to the club I always salute her first,” Chaves said. “She always watches over us.”
Chaves also leads Grupo Folclorico de Criancas, a folk dance group for youth ages 4 through teens. Following a Sunday afternoon luncheon, the dance troupe performed for appreciative guests.
“It’s important for us to keep the traditions alive,” Chaves said. “Our kids will never know what it was like growing up in Portugal, except from what they’re learning from us. There’s only one child in the group now who wasn’t born in the United States. I’m amazed that they actually want to come and learn Portuguese folk dance.”
Another committee member, Luisa Fontes, noted that the young dancers draw many relatives to the feast.
“The parents and grandparents are very proud to see their children perform, and to continue their heritage,” she said.
Fontes remembers her first visits to the local feast as a teen when her family emigrated from Portugal to Hudson. At the time, the feast featured an evening concert with fireworks that attracted thousands of visitors.
“I was a teenager coming here to dance outside,” she recalled. “The faith wasn’t the strongest part for me back then; it was more about dancing with my friends.”
Now, her strongest memory of the annual feast is the Sunday night procession.
“When it gets dark, we have the candlelight procession around the parking lot,” she explained. “After so much work planning the feast, when it comes to the end on Sunday night, we just honor and say farewell to our lady, and that’s what it’s all about. I get chills.”
Committee members have begun planning for HPC’s 2017 Fatima Feast, which will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the appearance in Portugal. Among those planning is Lurdes Melo.
“We’ve started putting money aside,” she said. “We’ll definitely do something big in 2017.”
For information about HPC, visit hudsonportugueseclub.org.