EDITOR’S NOTE: We received the following cancellation notice on March 17 from members of the Romeiros …

Due to COVID-19 and directives by the bishop of the Diocese of Fall River, the 2020 Lenten pilgrimage has been cancelled. Thank you to all who opened your doors and hearts, who offered us your support for the 2020 pilgrimage. You will all be in our prayers throughout this time, and we pray that Our Lady will keep us safe. 

Your brothers in Christ,
The Romeiros

FALL RIVER, Mass. — On Saturday, March 28, a faithful group of Portuguese parishioners will once again be embarking on an eight-day Lenten pilgrimage, traveling to more than 50 sites and churches throughout the Fall River Diocese, continuing a Sacred tradition that can be traced back to their Azorean heritage. 

Known as the Romeiros of New England (Romeiros da Nova Inglaterra), this devoted group has practiced the annual pilgrimage since 2012, praying and spreading the Word of God to all those they encounter.

“The pilgrimage was founded here in our diocese by Joe Camara and (his nephew) Peter after a return flight home from completing the pilgrimage in São Miguel, Azores,” said Derek Arruda, one of the organizers. “This is the ninth year that the pilgrimage has happened. With a lot of the original members not being able to participate due to illness and age, the group has gotten a little smaller, but the fire and desire still remain.”

The Romeiros — or pilgrims — will begin their journey on Saturday, March 28 at St. Bernard Church in Assonet and will walk for eight days, traveling an average of 20 miles a day, and visiting more than 50 sites. They will conclude the more-than-150-mile round trip by returning to St. Bernard Church on Saturday, April 4 for a celebration of Holy Mass.

While traveling, the group will ask to be allowed entry into the various diocesan churches or Sacred sites to pray for the Church, its parishioners, priests, community, and other personal favors — or “graças” — that are collected along the way. If a location happens to be closed, they will simply pray outside the door. If Holy Mass or other services are in progress, they will pray a short distance away so as not to interrupt.

The origins of the Romeiros dates back to the 16th-century in the Azores and has been maintained to this day by faithful followers for centuries on the island of São Miguel. It began when a large earthquake took place, causing landslides and much human loss and devastation to the local people.

After the island was struck with this deadly earthquake, the locals perceived it to be Divine punishment for their human actions. In response, they began to pray in large groups, walking every corner of the island from the end of February until early March, stopping off in local parishes to rest and eat while praying for forgiveness for their sins, all while giving thanks for the blessings in their lives.

“It is done during Lent because that is when Jesus offered Himself for us,” Arruda said. “As Romeiros, we do the same by offering ourselves to represent Christ to the world.”

Arruda explained that the bulging backpack each pilgrim carries represents the cross that Christ carried on the road to Calvary; the colored shawl represents the cloak the Romans used to mock Jesus during His trial; the decorative head scarves are meant to resemble the crown of thorns; and the wooden staff is a stand-in for the reed stick they gave to Christ.

Following is the schedule for the 2020 Romeiros. For more information about the Lenten pilgrimage, please contact Derek Arruda at 774-451-8358 or email Romeiros.2012@gmail.com.

Saturday, March 28

— St. Bernard Church, Assonet: 5 to 5:30 a.m.;
— St. John Neumann Church, East Freetown: 9 to 10 a.m.;
— Our Lady of Fatima Church, New Bedford: 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.;
— St. Mary Church, New Bedford: 2:30 to 2:45 p.m.;
— St. Francis Xavier Church, Acushnet: 3:15 to 3:30 p.m.;
— St. Joseph-St. Therese Church, New Bedford: 4:45 to 5 p.m.;
— Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, New Bedford: 6 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Sunday, March 29

— St. Anthony of Padua Church, New Bedford: 5:15 to 5:30 a.m.;
— Holy Name of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, New Bedford: 5:45 to 6:15 a.m.;
— Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, New Bedford: 6:30 to 6:45 a.m.;
— St. Mary Church, Fairhaven: 7:45 to 9 a.m.;
— St. Lawrence Martyr Church, New Bedford: 10 to 10:15 a.m.;
— Our Lady’s Chapel, New Bedford: 10:30 to 10:45 a.m.;
— Our Lady of the Assumption Church, New Bedford: 11 to 11:15 a.m.;
— Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. James Church, New Bedford: 11:30 to 11:45 a.m.;
— Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, New Bedford: 12 noon to 1 p.m.;
— St. Mary Church, South Dartmouth: 2:15 to 2:45 p.m.;
— St. Julie Billiart Church, North Dartmouth: 6 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Monday, March 30

— St. George Church, Westport: 7:30 to 8 a.m.;
— Our Lady of Grace Church, Westport: 10 to 10:15 a.m.;
— Espirito Santo Church, Fall River: 12:15 to 1:15 p.m.;
— St. Anthony of the Desert Church, Fall River: 3:15 to 3:30 p.m.;
— St. Anthony of Padua Church, Fall River: 3:50 to 4 p.m.;
— Holy Trinity Church, Fall River: 5:15 to 5:30 p.m.;
— Blessed Trinity Parish, Fall River: 6 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Tuesday, March 31

— Good Shepherd Church, Fall River: 5:30 to 6 a.m.;
— St. Stanislaus Church, Fall River: 6:15 to 6:30 a.m.;
— Santo Christo Church, Fall River: 8 to 9 a.m.;
— St. Mary’s Cathedral, Fall River: 9:15 to 9:45 a.m.;
— Holy Name Church, Fall River: 10:15 to 10:45 a.m.;
— St. Joseph Church, Fall River: 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.;
— St. Michael Church, Fall River: 12:45 to 1 p.m.;
— St. Thomas More Church, Somerset: 3 to 4 p.m.;
— St. Louis de France Church, Swansea: 4:30 to 4:45 p.m.;
— St. John of God Church, Somerset: 6 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Wednesday, April 1

— St. Francis of Assisi Church, Swansea: 6 to 6:30 a.m.;
— St. Dominic Church, Swansea: 7:30 to 8:30 a.m.;
— Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Seekonk: 1 to 2 p.m.;
— Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church, Seekonk: 6 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Thursday, April 2

— St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Church, South Attleboro: 6:45 to 8:30 a.m.;
— St. John the Evangelist Church, Attleboro: 11:30 a.m. to 12 noon;
— St. Vincent de Paul Church, Attleboro: 3 to 4 p.m.;
— La Salette Shrine, Attleboro: 5:30 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Friday, April 3

— St. Nicholas of Myra Church, North Dighton: 11 a.m. to 12 noon;
— Annunciation of the Lord Church, Taunton: 1 to 2 p.m.;
— St. Andrew the Apostle Church, Taunton: 2:30 to 3 p.m.;
— St. Mary Church, Taunton: 3:30 to 4 p.m.;
— Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Chapel, Taunton: 4:15 to 4:30 p.m.;
— St. Jude the Apostle Church, Taunton: 5 to 5:15 p.m.;
— St. Anthony Church, Taunton: 6 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Saturday, April 4

— St. Ann Church, Raynham: 6:30 to 7 a.m.;
— Holy Family Church, East Taunton: 9:30 to 10 a.m.;
— St. Bernard Church, Assonet: 3:30 to 4 p.m.