FALL RIVER — The Azorean culture has been an integral part of the Diocese of Fall River since its beginning. Parish life and communities found their roots in the traditions that many of the Azorean immigrants brought to nearby shores. In Fall River the Great Feast of the Holy Spirit was celebrated, which gathered Portuguese immigrants from across the nation, the Azores and Canada. 

Dr. José Andrade, (second from right), Director of the Regional Communities of the Azores, was presented with a plaque commemorating his visit with the Senior Group at Santo Christo Parish in Fall River. Vidalia Medeiros (second from right), has lead the group for the last 17 years. With them is pastor, Father Jeff Cabral (third from left), and Susan Mazzarella, Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fall River (third from right).

Every year the feast is held, special guests are invited to be part of this great celebration and homage to the Holy Spirit. This year, Dr. José Andrade, Director of the Regional Communities of the Azores, was one of the three guests invited. Dr. Andrade, whose agency has ties with Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fall River (formerly Catholic Social Services), decided not only to participate in the great feast, but also to take the opportunity to visit one of the programs his agency funds in Fall River. 

More than 20 years ago, the office for Regional Communities of the Azores sponsored the Santo Christo Senior Group located at Santo Christo Parish in Fall River. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fall River served as the liaison and point of contact for the group then and continues in this capacity to date. The goal of the initiative was to create a space where seniors could socialize, find resources and give them a renewed sense of purpose and well-being. 

The Santo Christo group, which meets once a week, offers a safe gathering space where local immigrant Portuguese seniors can find welcome, comraderie and a break from their often isolated lives. It is an initiative of the Azorean government, recognizing the often lonely and isolated lives that many of the elderly lead once they lose family members, become widowed, or adult children move away or lack the time to spend with aging parents and grandparents because of life’s demands. The main objective of the group, which is only one of two found in the U.S. (the other in California), is to safeguard the mental health and wellbeing of older adults, while giving them an opportunity to share a meal, as well as their passion and talents, and a chance to experience new adventures. 

A few days following the feast, Dr. Andrade visited the Senior Group at Santo Christo Parish. There he was greeted by Vidalia Medeiros, whose leadership has kept the group not only on task for the past 17 years, but has also ensured that the group adheres to its mission and purpose. Dr. Andrade quickly reminded the group of its vital role in the community and how it impacts the lives of so many elderly in area communities. He shared with the group how his 88-year-old mother looks forward to the gatherings every week in the Azores and found it a place of welcome and comfort after losing her husband. 

As the meeting progressed, Dr. Andrade asked Medeiros what some of her hopes and dreams were for the group. Without hesitation, she shared how she would love to have a van for the group, as transportation costs, more specifically bus rentals, are often prohibitive. This would allow them to pick up members who lack transportation of their own, take them to appointments and even plan day trips, opening up more opportunities for its membership — which currently has about 30 members. 

Dr. Andrade was very pleased with his visit and expressed their continued support of the group. He also thanked pastor Father Jeffrey Cabral for his support of the group and allowing them to meet and use the parish hall. 

The Senior Group presented Dr. Andrade with a plaque commemorating his visit, as well as its appreciation for not only coming to visit their humble group, but for the Azores’ recognition of this vital service to those who are often forgotten by society. 

Susan Mazzarella, Director of Catholic Charities, presented Vidalia Medeiros with a Certificate of Nomination from Catholic Charities USA in recognition of her contribution to the communities it serves, echoing the words of the certificate, which state: “We are grateful for your outstanding contributions to your local community.” Dr. Andrade was very impressed with the work that Medeiros and the group have accomplished, and was proud of the recognition Medeiros and the group received from Catholic Charities USA. His comment to Medeiros was, “What a prestigious honor to be recognized for the dedication and commitment to improving the lives of others.” 

For more information on the Senior Group, contact Vidalia Medeiros at 508-330-1942 or via email at vidaliascorpio@hotmail.com.