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The Beginning


Early in the 14th century, Queen Elizabeth of Portugal established a religious tradition that, until today, inspires the Portuguese to do works of faith and charity.  Elizabeth's husband, King Diniz, perceived as an evil ruler, was one day convinced by Elizabeth to invite a number of poor persons to dinner at the palace.  During the dinner, she persuaded the king to go around the table placing a crown briefly upon the head of each guest.  In essence, the giving of the meal was an act of charity while the crowning provided the message that, in the eyes of God, all of His children are created equal.

     Elizabeth, whose virtuous life earned her the title of "The Peacemaker" died in 1336, and was canonized in 1626.  It is ironic that the Catholic Church celebrates Saint Elizabeth's life every year on July 4th, the same day as America, "the land of equality and opportunity" celebrates its independence from the tyranny of England.




     Inspired by the works of St. Elizabeth, a small group of Azorean immigrants joined together to form an organization which would provide a continuation of their native tradition of faith and charity.  it should be noted that in that time, Portuguese Catholics living in East Providence had to travel by foot or horse to celebrate in their native tongue at Our Lady of the Rosary Church, which had been established in 1886 in the Fox Point section of Providence.  

     The sole purpose this organization, the Brotherhood of the Divine Holy Ghost, was to celebrate  on an annual basis a Holy Ghost feast that included dinner for the poor and a procession to a Catholic church where a sermon and mass would be celebrated in honor of the society's deceased members.  One hundred years have passed and this mandate has been observed without interruption.




     In 1914, the words "Nos Falamos Portiguês" and "Se habla Español" were not found in the vocabulary of America.  The slogan "Irish need not apply" was quite familiar in a state dominated by Anglo-Saxon Protestant influence.  In the society Portuguese-American immigrants were, for the most part, considered as uninsurable.

     A small group of immigrant factory workers, recognizing this plight, met at the Oddfellows Hall on Warren Avenue and established an organization that would provide them with some income during illness and fund a decent Christian burial.  These men, who named their organization "Voz do Operario" (Voice of the Worker), were truly men of compassion and vision.  No one would argue that their wisdom would establish them as "Profiles of Courage".


St. Francis Xavier Church


     In 1900, at the dawn of the new century, the Portuguese population in East Providence began to grow.  Two Holy Ghost organizations - IDES and Trinity Brotherhood of the Holy Ghost - provided places for immigrants to pray and celebrate their traditions.

     In 1914, aware of the migration of the Portuguese to East Providence, the Right Reverend Matthew Harkins, D.D. instructed Father Joseph P. Lopes, an assistant pastor at Our Lady of the Rosary, to conduct a census of the Portuguese speaking Catholics in East Providence.  On January 1, 1915, the first mass of Saint Francis Xavier Church was celebrated by Father Lopes in the "IDES" Hall on Phillips Street.  Our building would serve as the temporary church until the present edifice was consecrated in May of 1916.

     In a way, history was repeated when on January 16, 2000, when father Victor M. Vieira, the current pastor of Saint Francis Xavier Church, was the principal celebrant of the Inaugural Liturgy that began our Centennial Celebration.  Among the concelebrants were Fathers August F. Mendonsa, Douglas W. Grant and Manuel Pereira, M.S.




     On the eighth day of October, 1925, Frank J. Enos, Anthony Maciel, Anthony E. Davis, John S. Rodgers, John S. Freitas, Antonio S. Lamb, Joseph J. Silveira and Joseph Dutra da Rosa appeared before Rhode Island Secretary of State, Ernest L. Sprague and filed documents necessary to form a consolidated organization under the name "Irmandade de beneficencia Espirito of Rhode Island".  The amalgamated organization would assume the membership and the goals and objectives of both the Brotherhood of the Divine Holy Ghost and the Voice of the Worker.  The architects of this joining together - Enos Medeiros Peters and Anthony E. Davis-in their wisdom knew the greater numbers would solidify the strength of the combined organization.

     On July 16, 1926. Associate Justice J. Blodgett of the Superior Court of the State of Rhode Island formally entered an order dissolving the charter of Voz do Operario.  On February 24, 1944, at a special meeting of the assembly, the membership approved a resolution changing the name of the organization to "Holy Ghost Beneficial Brotherhood of Rhode Island".  This change was ratified and confirmed when filed with the Office of the Secretary of State on February 26, 1946.




     The 50th annual First Observance held in May of 1950 was a special event.  In addition to the usual festivities, a full scale carnival with a carousel and ferris wheel was held on club grounds; and a series of events including a giant fireworks display and a full scale boxing exhibition were held at Pierce Memorial Stadium.  The boxing show as arranged by Manny Almeida, New England's premiere boxing promoter, and featured George Araujo, the reigning New England Lightweight Champion.  Less than three years later, Araujo, Fox Point's greatest star, would fight for the lightweight Championship at New York's Madison Square Garden in front of a national television audience.  Manuel N. Sousa, a H.G.B.B. Vice-President, and his wife Lenore Lewis Sousa, were the Mordomes of the 50th Anniversary Feast Celebration.  The 1950 event was so well organized and impressive that the Providence Journal devoted the front cover and five pages of its Rhode Islander Magazine to describe it.


Nuno Tristão & Diego Gomes


    Early in the morning of June 12, 1958, two Portuguese frigates, "Nuno Tristão" and "Diogo Gomes" steamed into the Port of Providence.  Their arrival kicked off a series of events that were, at the time, unprecedented in Rhode Island's Portuguese American Community.  At the behest of Representative Augusto W. SaoBento, a member of our organization, Governor Dennis J. Roberts proclaimed June 14, 1958 as Rhode Island's first "Portuguese Day".  On the night of June 12, the Portuguese Navy arrived at Phillip Street and were treated to a reception, supper and dance by the Brotherhood.  Wine, beer and dancing partners were all in abundance.  In essence, they danced until the wee hours.  A good time was had by all.  Brotherhood members including John E. Rebello, John Ferreira and Arthur T. Cabral were active in planning this naval visit.




     The 75th Anniversary was also a grand celebration.  On Sunday, May 18, 1975, the procession to Saint Francis Xavier was met by the Most Reverend Kenneth A. Angell, Auxiliary Bishop of Providence, and our Pastor, Father Manuel Rego.  Bishop Angell, in addition to celebrating the mass and crowning ceremony, also marched in the procession on its return to the club for the traditional meal of soup and meat.

     On September 20th, a parade was held with participation by many civic and community organizations desirous of saluting the H.G.B.B. on it's 75th Anniversary.  later in the evening, a banquet was held for members and civic officials.  Among those in attendance were Governor Philip W. Noel, Portuguese Consul Dr. José S. Vilela and Mayor George A. Lamb, whose father Anthony S. Lamb was an incorporator of the combined organization in 1925.  Mr. and Mrs. Antone Gouveia were the Mordomes of the 75th Annual Feast and Paul J. Tavares was the General Chairman of the 75th Anniversary celebration.


100th Feast Observance


    Our 100th Annual Feast was truly a spectacular event.  Mrs. Elize Broze, a long time member and tireless feast worker for decades, was this year's Mordome.  "Mamma Broze", as she is affectionately known, organized a beautiful procession together with an impressive altar upon which our Holy Ghost Crowns were displayed.  On Saturday, June 10th, our outdoor concert featured Jorge Ferreira, an entertainer of international fame, who delighted a tremendous crowd which local municipal officials estimated at approximately seven thousand.  Amazingly, everything ran perfectly - a testement to the efforts and leadership of General Chairman John L. Faria's Centennial Committee.


Public Service


    Throughout its history, H.G.B.B. members have distinguished themselves in public service.  In most instances these men served their apprenticeship in community service under the umbrella of this organization.  

     Among the many officers and appointments are: the first Portuguese-American elected to statewide office in Rhode Island; two Presidents Pro Tempore of the Rhode Island Senate; five state senators serving East Providence center city for a period of forty-two consecutive years; nine members of the House of Representatives; two East Providence Mayors; two Assistant Mayors; ten members of the City Council and five members of the school committee.

     Appointed offices include: a Director of Labor and Training; Administrator of the Workers' Compensation Court; A Chief of Police in East Providence; and a Director of Civil Preparedness in the District of Columbia; an East Providence City Mayor  and countless members of state and municipal boards and commissions.




    In the post World War II period their existed a fierce rivalry between our organization and the Portuguese-American Athletic Club.  Strangely, the object of their competition was America's pastime "baseball" and not "soccer".  Each of the clubs fielded a team in the state top ranked amateur league.  H.G.B.B. was managed by John N. Sousa, the organization's Vice-President.  John L. Lewis who today, is the oldest living male member of our organization managed P.A.A.C.

     On Saturday, August 2, 1947, the rival clubs put competition aside and played each other in a beneficial game at Pierce Memorial Stadium.  The real winner of the game was a 25 year old World War II veteran who was paralyzed from the waist down as a result of being wounded in action in Germany.  The Manuel G. Leonardo Fund, through this and other efforts, was successful in its goal to raise the funds required to build a home for this deserving veteran.

     On Saturday, October 26th, at the H.G.B.B. Hall, a banquet was held honoring P.A.A.C. who had edged out H.G.B.B. in winning the 1947 Tim O'Neil League Championship.  The wave of immigrants of the late fifties and early sixties brought East Providence the European love of soccer.  Most of the early soccer revival was centered at the P.A.A.C.  However, In 1978, H.G.B.B. fielded a team in the Luso-American Soccer Association.  Two years later in 1980 our teams won the Division Two Championship.  In 1982, H.G.B.B.'s team took the honors in winning the First Division Championship.

     In the early fifties, Little League baseball came to Rhode Island.  H.G.B.B. was an early and enthusiastic supporter of its programs.  For thirty years our facility was the home and headquarters for all activities of East Providence Central Little League.




    Throughout its long and eventful history, our membership has always been most generous in the use of its facilities.  Among the community organizations that have called Phillip Street Hall home are the Portuguese Cultural Association, East Providence Central Little League, Centro Cultural de Santa Maria and the East Providence Charity Ball.  In addition, thousands of weddings, bridal showers, bachelor dinners, testimonials, benefit dinners and meetings have enjoyed the  use of our building.  As it begins its second century of service, our "Hall" continues to be East Providence's largest privately owned facility.  It is our sincere hop that the new century will provide us with the opportunities to continually provide leadership and service to our church, our membership and our community!


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