The Portuguese have become a part of Rhode Island society, but not at the price of entirely losing their religious heritage. Despite cold and blustery March winds and snow flurries blowing off Narragansett Bay, on Palm Sunday morning roughly 60 pilgrims from the "Romeiros de Bristol" confraternity made their annual pilgrimage from one holy sanctuary to another around the town of Bristol, Rhode Island.
Each year the well-organized group visit St. Mary’s Cemetery, the parish churches of Bristol and the outdoor cross and the chapel at the Columban Fathers south of town.
It is truly inspiring to see and feel the sincere old world faith of these people as they preserve an old world pilgrimage tradition in the new world setting of Bristol. Many adult men and some children also participate in honoring Jesus and his Blessed Mother on Palm Sunday. Most of the prayers are in Portuguese, but a few are also in English.
In addition to the colorful shawls and scarves and walking sticks, many of the participants wear photos of the deceased relatives they are praying for. In a concession to the reality of modern traffic on Route 114, the main body of pilgrims is followed by a car with flashing hazard lights. One of the men who walks at the rear of the procession wears a special cape with reflective tape applied to it so that the walkers can be spotted from a distance.
In the course of a year many New Englanders travel around the world to experience colorful religious pageants. Many, perhaps, do not realize that colorful observances are taking place so close to home.