The roots of their faith run deep for Jose and Maria Ponceano. So deep, in fact, that they reach back to their native Azores, the volcanic Portuguese archipelago founded upon hard work and a strong devotion to God and family.
It was there, on the North Atlantic island of Terceira, that Jose and Maria learned the joy one received from volunteering their service to help others.
As a young boy, Jose had always wanted to play a musical instrument. But his father needed him to milk the cows and help run the farm which supported the family, leaving him no time to pursue his passion for music.
In 1971, he came to America, where he married his beloved Maria. Both became communicants at St. Anthony Church in Pawtucket. They would raise three children: Luisa, Filomena and Adriano, who together have made Jose and Maria proud grandparents eight times over.
As the years passed, the music that so inspired Jose in his youth continued to play within him.
In September of 1993, Jose met with a small group of people who shared a similar zeal in wanting to bring to St. Anthony the melodious sounds of traditional Portuguese band music they had grown up with back in the Azores.
A year later, on Pentecost Sunday, the shared dream came to fruition as the parish’s Banda Anova Alianca marching band took to the streets.
“Mr. Ponceano was shining with pride. He still could not play an instrument but knew that he had started something special in his parish that would draw together other parishes through their annual festivals as well as the children of the parish and neighboring community,” Filomena DaSilva said in nominating her parents for the service award.
For Jose, introducing the children to the native customs — instilled in the hearts and minds of many of their parents — paid dividends. He had worked with others to create a safe haven where youngsters could go to retreat from the evils of the world, such as gangs and drugs.
He couldn’t have been happier to see more than two dozen children join the band, even though most did not know how to play an instrument. To help them achieve their dreams, Jose arranged for instructors to teach them to play and march, eventually helping to construct and provide metal working for a new band house for the group to practice and hold member meetings in.
“I was surprised,” Jose said when asked his reaction to being named as an honoree. “I like doing the jobs I do for the Church, to help it keep going for the future.”
While her husband has helped to promote music at St. Anthony since 1993, Maria Ponceano has been a strong supporter of the parish’s Holy Spirit Society since 1986.
“Years passed by she never said no to anyone who asked for her help on this committee,” DaSilva said in her nomination.
In 1990, both Maria and Jose were nominated to serve as marshals of the Society for the first of three times that Maria has reigned. They put in much time over the course of their term, scheduling a dozen or more events that year, from public speaking to promoting the Society to planning dinners and fundraising in support of their parish.
During the parish’s huge annual 3-day feast each July, Maria is up early, taking a leading role in the kitchen cooking for the hundreds who will come to sample the authentic Portuguese fare.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s all for the Holy Spirit,” Maria says of her service to the Church, which is the cornerstone of her life.
— AWARDS BANQUET —
The honorees will be awarded during a dinner at Twin River Event Center in Lincoln on Wednesday, May 15.
Guests wishing to purchase tickets to the dinner — whose proceeds will support Diocesan Youth Ministry — are asked to register online at dioceseofprovidence.org/lumen-gentium-awards.
For more information, please call 401-277-2121.