The Start of the Church
The Portuguese community of Ludlow started with a few workers recruited to the Ludlow Mills. They came in general from the area of Providence. Then a represented of the company would go to that direction and try to recruit more emigrants to add to the ones already established in Ludlow. Little by little the group grew and wives and children joined their spouses.
The Great Depression came and in order to survive a great part of those without a job had to return to the home country. They had their plot of land and could fair better working it. Later on their sons, born in the USA, were confronted with a dilemma: to go in the Portuguese army and lose their American citizenship or return to their country of birth. It is said that the majority chose the latter. And the Portuguese community grew by leaps and bounds.
During the Second World War more emigrants arrived but it was in the late fifties, sixties and early seventies that the community as it is known today was rounded. The first groups were almost exclusively from the north of Portugal, from the province of Trás-os-Montes with a few exceptions from the Islands and Cape Verde. The Later groups came from the same north but with new elements now from Minho, Beiras and Extremadura.
Extremely religious and very much attached to their cultural roots from the beginning the members of the community started to feel a need to worship in their mother tongue and to celebrate their special feasts.
They were welcomed by Father Chabot of St John the Baptist Church that seeing how devoted they were promptly learned their language in order to minister and to get close to them. The community ended up with the 11.00 am Mass being celebrated in Portuguese. But they knew that was not enough. They wanted their own church. For that purpose funds were collected for thirty years through breakfasts, little sales, and door to door contributions, in enormous and ingenious ways for people with very little money but with a tremendous will and a beautiful and strong heart. They wanted their church to be called St Anthony’s and started celebrating annually his feast on June 13 with great joy. People came from everywhere to partake of their hospitality.
Finally in 1948 Bishop O‘Leary gave them permission and the new parish was born although without an edifice. A visiting priest from Portugal, Father Manuel Rocha, offered his ministry to the bishop who nominated him as administrator. Meanwhile Mass i.e. the Eucharist, left St John’s and was being celebrated at the Grémio Lusitano.
On Labor Day 1949 the present Church was inaugurated and dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima and not to St Anthony as it was planned. The reason was that Father Rocha convinced the community that many other churches existed already with the name of the saint but Our Lady of Fatima would be the first one in the Diocese. The people agreed with their spiritual leader.