I would like to thank Chris Teicheira for entrusting me to pinch hit for him while he is in Oregon.
What began as an homage to my grandfather Frank Steves became a doorway to hundreds of memories of a childhood spent within the parameters of the Manteca Ripon Pentecost Society Hall. This weekend marks the 96th MRPS. Festa and in honor of the Festa, I would like to share some Steves/Fagundes family history as so much of it is intertwined with the MRPS. Hall.
I was 5-years-old the first time I participated in the annual Feast of the Holy Spirit parade. It was the first of many and for as long as I can remember, a member or members of my family participated in the MRPS Festa. The foundation of what is now the Manteca Ripon Pentecostal Society was constructed with the help of my maternal great-grandfather, Manuel Fagundes, who was one of the carpenters who built the original hall in 1919. From 1919, when the original hall was located in Ripon, to 2015 there have been generations of the Steves/Fagundes family gracing the halls and walls of the MRPS. Hall and participating in the Festas. My grandfather, Frank M. Steves, was president of the Ripon Pentecost Society in 1930. In 1973, great-uncle Melvin (Mike) Loureiro was President, and then in 2005, Melvin’s daughter, Georgiann Loureiro Rose, carried on the tradition laid forth by her father.
The Portuguese culture is rich with tradition and the Feast of the Holy Spirit is a prime example of the resplendence of the Portuguese culture. The Festa is an important reminder of the heritage that was brought to this country from the Azores and is an opportunity to merge the old country with the new life created in America. Each Festa is a way of keeping the traditions and culture alive in generation after generation. Each Festa holds many memories for each family in attendance, but there was no one more memorable to our family than that of Festa on June 4, 1978, when my Grandfather, Frank Machado Steves, fulfilled a promise made upon his departure from the Azores 58 years earlier.
It’s a common practice in the Portuguese community to make a pledge in order to ensure the safe arrival in America of a loved one. In 1920 my great-grandfather, Francisco Machado Esteves, Sr., made a pledge to feed the Portuguese community if his son Francisco Machado Esteves, Jr. arrived safely in America.
Francisco Machado Esteves II was born on Sao Sebastiao, Teirceira in the Azores on May 18, 1898 to Francisco Machado Esteves I and Maria Rita. Francisco M. Esteves left the Azores from Angra, Terceira on June 24, 1920 aboard the S.S. Roma which arrived in Providence, Rhode Island on July 1, 1920. Francisco M. Esteves changed his name to the anglicized Frank M. Steves because of the commonality of the name Francisco Esteves. From Rhode Island, Frank traveled to Ripon, California to join his elder brother, Manuel M. Esteves.
Frank worked as a dairyman and in 1931 married Edna Marie Fagundes. Their marriage produced 6 surviving children: Lawrence (Larry), Frank P. (Junior), Elizabeth (Betty), Robert (Bobby), Thomas (Tommy), and Doreen. Frank M. and Edna made their life in the Manteca/Ripon area. Frank and Edna reared their children in the activities of the M.R.P.S Hall. During his lifetime, Frank enjoyed his 6 children and his sixteen grandchildren. All of his children and grandchildren have participated in festas over the years.
In 1932, Frank’s father, Francisco Esteves, Sr. died and Frank M. Steves, Jr. assumed the pledge made by his father to feed the Portuguese community. For more than 50 years the responsibility to fulfill the pledge weighed heavily on him. Frank had a strong work ethic, which he instilled in all of his children. He was also a man of his word. With the help of his children, Frank and Edna purchased a steer and donated it to the M.R.P.S. Festa to fulfill his father’s promise.
To honor his commitment to his father’s oath, Frank M. Steves, surrounded by his wife, children, grandchildren, and extended family was honored at St. Anthony’s Church. Frank, who was confined to a wheelchair since the late 60’s, was escorted into the church by his youngest son, Thomas Steves, with his wife Edna by his side. Frank was preceded in the procession by his granddaughter, Clarice Pratt, who had been selected to represent Queen Isabel. After the traditional ceremonial crowning of Queen Isabel in the mass, Frank was crowned and received the scepter of the Holy Spirit and a symbol of his blessing.
It was a proud day for all of us who witnessed the fruition of a lifelong legacy. The next morning, Frank suffered a heart attack and later that day, Frank died. Within 24 hours of completion of his promise, Frank M. Steves was at peace. I will never forget the image of my grandfather’s face as he exited the church. There was a look of serenity in his face, one which I had not seen before. I did not understand the gravity of the moment when I was 14, but the memory of his face will forever be etched in my memory. When I attend the Festa at the MRPS. this Sunday it will be to celebrate my Portuguese heritage and to honor my grandfather who taught me the most important lesson about integrity and perseverance…not by his words, but his actions.
(In memory of Frank Machado Steves, May 18, 1898 to June 5, 1978)
What is the Festival of the Holy Spirit?
Azoreans in the United States have been celebrating the Festival of the Holy Spirit for more than 100 years. California is home to the largest Azorean population in the country. There are variants to the story of the origin of the Festival, but according to Portuguese tradition, The Feast of the Holy Spirit dates back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth (Isabel) of Portugal (1271-1336). Isabel also known as the “Holy Queen” was devoted to the Holy Spirit and was a champion to the poor. The Azores Islands suffered devastating earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in the 13th century. The islands were plagued with famine, drought, and crop failures. Queen Isabel had depleted her financial resources procuring food for the poor on the mainland. On Pentecost, with nothing left of value but her crown, pledged to the Holy Spirit, “I will give my crown to the church if you send me a miracle, so my people will be relieved of their hunger.” As she left the church, she saw ships coming into the harbor loaded with wheat and corn. It is said that from that day forth on Pentecost of each year, Queen Isabel held a celebration to feed the community to give thanks to the Holy Spirit. This tradition has continued for over 700 years.
Queen Isabel was canonized in the 1625 as Saint Isabel because of the Miracle of the Roses and many other miracles in her name after her death. The Miracle of Roses occurred when Isabel was caught by her husband, King Diniz, leaving the palace with something hidden in her dress. Isabel was known to take bread from the palace and to give to the poor and King Diniz frowned upon Isabel’s desire to feed the needy. The King, who suspected what Isabel was doing, inquired as to what she had folded in her dress to which Isabel replied, “roses, my lord.” Isabel had prayed to the Holy Spirit for an intercession and when she unfolded her dress, out dropped roses instead of bread. This miracle is commemorated in the parade by having Queen Isabel riding upon a float holding bread and a bouquet of roses.