Jody Correia is inviting everyone to the MRPS Hall on Sunday. The event is the 94th annual Manteca-Ripon Pentecost Society’s Holy Ghost festa. The invitation is for everybody to come and share the day’s feast of sopas, the traditional soup served especially for this day.
“Everyone is invited – the homeless, anybody. Come sit at the table and eat. That’s what this is all about,” Correia said, explaining the real meaning of the celebration which is in thanksgiving to the blessings of the Holy Spirit and to commemorate the miracle surrounding the story of Queen Isabel of Agagao who later became St. Isabel.
The story goes back to the 13th century when, according to historical accounts, the queen who was the wife of King Diniz of Portugal, saw the suffering of her people during a devastating drought which was followed by a long famine that killed thousands of people. According to the story, the queen saved the lives of many people by giving them bread to eat. At the same time, the people offered prayers and novenas until the day of Pentecost when the rains returned ending the years of drought.
In thanksgiving to the Holy Spirit for this miraculous deliverance, the day of the Pentecost was declared a national holiday. This holiday continued in Portugal for several centuries.
When Portuguese people migrated to California and the East Coast, they brought the Holy Ghost celebration with them, introducing it to their American neighbors. The Manteca Portuguese community has continued this tradition through the Manteca-Ripon Pentecost Society since 1919. The other Portuguese organization, FESM – Festa do Divino Espirito Santo de Manteca – had its first president elected in 1931. The FESM group will have their own festa in July.
Correia, who, with husband John, are co-presidents of MRPS for the second year in a row, said sopas will be served three times on Sunday – when the parade leaves the hall for St. Anthony of Padua Church on East North Street where the traditional Mass will begin at 10:30 a.m., after the Mass around noon, and again at night after the auction fund-raiser at the hall located at Grant Street between Yosemite Avenue and Center Street.
They expect to serve about 1,000 guests, just as they did last year, said Correia on Friday when volunteers were busy getting ready for the event – decorating the floats, preparing the ingredients for the sopas, and getting the food blessed by Father Camilo Garcia of St. Anthony of Padua Church.
In the spirit of the tradition that was the genesis of the festa, the meat that goes in the making of the sopas come from cows donated by various dairy farmers in the area.
“We used to have 120 to 150 cows 20 to 25 years ago. Now we get 40, maybe 50 at the most,” said volunteer and MRPS member Mike Teicheira.