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MRPS marks 100th festa this weekend
MRPS President Chris Teicheira holds up the crown representing patron saint Queen Isabella for the blessing from Fr. Chad Wahl of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church

It was preparation day Friday for Manteca Ripon Pentecost Society’s busy weekend.

The 100th annual Festa will continue a rich tradition highlighted by the celebration of the feast of the Holy Ghost — or the Holy Spirit — and the traditional procession on Sunday to St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church.

It’s there that Bishop Myron Cotta will preside over the special 10:30 a.m. Portuguese Mass.

But before that, Fr. Chad Wahl blessed the ingredients for the sopas feed — part of the centuries of tradition which commemorates the charitable action of the Portuguese queen St. Isabella, who fed people during a time of famine — along with the sweet bread desserts and the Manteca crown symbolic of the patron saint.

“This is a beautiful tradition,” Fr. Chad said during the blessing. “It’s not just the parade and the fun but the understanding of your identity.”

According to Alyce Machado-Luis, who is the co-chairperson for the Festa, sopas will be served today at 6 p.m. to all those who donated to the event.

A rosary will follow at 6:30.

On Sunday, the parade route will start at 9:30 a.m. at the MRPS Hall, 133 N. Grant St., to East Center Street, traveling north along Fremont Avenue, to St. Anthony’s, 505 E. North St.

After mass, the procession goes back to the MRPS Hall — along North Street to North Grant Street — for the free community-wide sopas feed (donations will be accepted).

Dinner is scheduled later in the day followed by an auction led by MRPS President Chris Teicheira.

The evening will also include the introduction of officers and queen along with a tradition folk dancing not to mention dancing till midnight to the live tunes by the Generations Band.

MRPS history

The MRPS’ roots go back to May of 1919 when a group of Portuguese living in the Manteca area held their first meeting at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Antone Regallo. The purpose was to bring the Holy Ghost Celebration to Manteca.

The newly formed society was called the Divino Espirito Santo de Manteca. Its first president was Manuel Alves. The first queen was Mabel Garcia with her side maids being Carmel Coelho and Ema Garcia. The festa and dances were held at the Brick Hall as it was called at the time.

In 1928-1929, the Portuguese newspaper known as Colonia Portuguesa reported that hundreds of Portuguese from San Diego, Los Angeles, and from elsewhere along the California coast attended the two-day festa in Manteca.

They were entertained by the popular pyro technician O’Papagaio from Oakland who conducted one of the biggest fireworks shows Manteca had ever seen

Ripon started their festa in 1921. It was called the Festa do Espirito Santo de Ripon. John Loureiro Sr. was the first president. The first queen was Mae Maciel with Marie Loureiro and Angelina Regallo as the first side maids.

Ripon sold their hall in 1955 and joined Manteca to form a new celebration known as the Manteca Ripon Pentecost Society.

Holy Ghost background

Festas are held on weekends from April until August in areas settled by early immigrants from Portugal and the Azores islands. The festas stretch from the North Coast, down the San Joaquin Valley, and to San Diego.

There is a tradition that shows Queen Isabel in 1296 that always shows her with red roses in one hand and a small loaf of bread in the other.

The tradition stems from her habit of taking bread from the palace and secretly passing it to the poor and hungry. One day, the king found out about it and confronted her and was asked to open her apron. When she opened her apron to reveal the stolen bread a miracle had occurred. Instead of bread, a bunch of red roses fell to the floor. Her generosity and love for her people had been honored by God.

Masses were said continuously during a nine day novena until the day of Pentecost when the people witnessed three ships sail up the harbor and dock in Lisbon. The three ships were filled with grain that helped bring their hunger to an end. It also began to rain after several years of drought. This was considered to b e a major miracle.

In thanksgiving to the Holy Spirit for this miraculous deliverance, the day of the Pentecost was declared a national holiday. The festive day was held in Portugal for centuries before being exported to the Azores islands and then to communities in California including Manteca with the immigration of Portuguese settlers.

Queen Isabel was canonized by Pope Urban the Eight in 1625. Her devotion to her people was symbolized by the promise she made to the Holy Spirit that if her people were delivered from famine and drought, she would lay her jeweled crown on the altar as a gift to the Church.

Replicas of her crown adorned with the dove, the Holy Spirit’s symbol, were made. Queen Isabel began a custom of crowning and placing her cape on the poorest girl in the kingdom and the poorest male beggar. The custom of crowning and feeding the people of the community takes place still today through the annual festa — a tradition that gas survived for nearly 700 years.

For more information in this weekend’s 100th MRPS festa, call 209.471.6777.