Tradition adrift the history and development of the blessing of the fleet in Stonington, Connecticut, 1950-2007

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Theological Studies


Department of Religious Studies


Advisor: Anthony B. Smith


The following study is a narrative account of the history and development of the annual Blessing of the Fleet held in Stonington, Connecticut from its earliest celebrations in the 1950s to its most recent in 2007. Particular attention is devoted to the ethnic Portuguese community of Stonington, their historical organization and shaping of the local fishing fleet, and their creative development of the annual Blessing. By attending to the history and development of the annual Blessing, this account primarily seeks to describe the event in terms of the people who simply and affectionately referred to it as the Blessing." As a historical-theological account, this study proceeds according to a lex orandi, lex credendi approach. As a consequence, special attention is given to the content and mode of prayers that have been offered over the course of the annual Blessing's history and celebration. These prayers are not only primary sites for reflection on the origin and destiny of this community's historical and anticipated life in Christ, but are departure points for an analysis concerning how various dimensions of the local fleet's life have been formally shaped through the celebration of the annual Blessing. In short, this study is a particular reflection on the integration of labor in liturgy in the U.S. An important focus of this study centers on how the history and development of the annual Blessing has been informed by other popular liturgies in the ethnic Portuguese community of Stonington, American Protestant piety in the mid-twentieth century, economic and regulatory issues concerning the local fishing fleet, and the pressures fishing exerted on local family life. And no figure at the annual Blessing drew together these various influences more than St. Peter. Because the life this community celebrated and anticipated was publically displayed at the annual Blessing in terms of the life of the communion of saints, this study describes in detail how the community addressed St. Peter, where they variously placed and processed him over the course of the event, and how devotion to him was integrally related to the vocation of fishing in the local fleet."


Peter, the Apostle, Saint Prayers and devotions, Benediction, Portuguese American Catholics Connecticut Stonington, Fishing boats Prayers and devotions, Stonington (Conn.) Religious life and customs

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