I learned something new today.

I have lived here on the SouthCoast for nearly 30 years, but somehow, I have never seen anything like this: a group of men walking together, carrying what appears to be walking sticks and wearing something resembling blankets over their shoulders.

A Facebook friend posted a picture of them walking down Buffington Street in Somerset and turning into a church parking lot.

We were talking about it on the air when Tony Soares, the owner at Inner Bay Cafe and Grill, called in from the Azores to shed some light on the topic.

Apparently, what was happening in Somerset is an old Lenten tradition that was brought to the SouthCoast from the Azores.

"They are called Romeiros, and they are pilgrims," Soares said. "In the year 1522, we had a major earthquake causing deadly landslides in the capital of the Azores, Villa Franca do Campo.  A group of men decided to walk around the island, a tour of the different churches on the island.  They carried food on their back, and walked for eight days, stopping at every little church, walking 12 hours a day, nearly 150 miles over the course of the week."

Courtesy of Alan Medeiros
Courtesy of Alan Medeiros

Groups of men from Somerset to New Bedford have been recreating this spiritual pilgrimage out of local churches.  Soares told us that the men aren't wearing blankets.  They are wearing what is called xaile, or shawls.

The group in New Bedford walks one day during Lent.  They leave Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception on Earle Street and walk to Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the South End, visiting different churches along the way on a 10-hour journey.

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