Portuguese Immigrants in the United States

Father Manuel Francisco Fernandes

Manuel Francisco Fernandes was born in Ribeira, Pico. He moved to Brazil and returned to the Azores before migrating to Siskiyou County, California, where he raised sheep and acquired a mine. In 1877 Fernandes again returned to the islands, leaving land for the erection of an Immaculate Conception Church in Hawkinsville, Siskiyou County. While back in the Azores, he studied for the priesthood at a seminary in Angra do Heroísmo. Returning to California, he was ordained at Santa Barbara. He then served at Mission San Jose and Mendocino and did missionary work in Hawaii and Macau for about a year.

In 1889 Fernandes arrived unannounced in Hawaii. The Belgian order in charge of Catholic matters on islands, the Congregation of the Sacred Heart, refused him entrance into local clergy, and the ethnically German bishop rejected a petition of more than one hundred local Portuguese to build their own church under Fernandes. In 1890 Fernandes left for Macau and three Portuguese Protestant ministers arrived from Illinois, converting some of the Portuguese, who in general were unhappy with the Catholic church on the islands. As a result of these conversions, the Catholic establishment invited Portuguese priests from California to work in Hawaii. Stephen Alencastre, originally of Madeira, was ordained, and some Belgians learned Portuguese. Although the Portuguese never did build a Catholic church on the islands, one parish in Honolulu and another on Maui Island were largely Portuguese.

Once again in California, Father Fernandes was assistant pastor at a church in Centerville, he later made his way to Oakland. In 1892 St. Joseph's Portuguese Church in Oakland was completed under Fernandes' stewardship and in 1902 it was turned over to the Salesian Fathers, an Italian order, but the parish remained Portuguese. Father Fernandes died in Oakland in June 1896.

Suggested Reading:

Leo Pap, The Portuguese-Americans (Boston: Twayne, 1981; reprint, Boston: Portuguese Continental Union of the U.S.A., 1992), 179-80 (citation from reprint edition).

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