By Jessica Easthope
Unprecedented times call for tough decisions.
For the last 117 years thousands of men have carried the tradition of the Giglio Feast on their shoulders, watching their fathers and grandfathers come up through Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and take on the task of lifting the seven-story, four-ton tower in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
For the first time since World War II, the Giglio tower will not dance in the sky above Brooklyn, but Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, knows the tradition will endure.
“We realized as much as it’s a painful decision we had to make, we had to make it,” Msgr. Jamie told Currents News.
“Next year, the feast is bigger and better than ever and we’re going to lift it through the sky,” he added.
“I would never know how close I would have stayed to the Church growing up have had I not been so drawn into the traditions we had at my parish,” explained John Perrone, a member of the Giglio Feast Committee.
Like many who participate, John was born in Williamsburg but has since moved away from the old neighborhood. Every year, the feast takes him back.
“For me, it was the highlight of my summer as a kid,” John said. “I grew more and more attracted to it and it made me the guy I am today.”
The Giglio has watched the neighborhood change from 72 feet in the air. In recent years, new people meant having to recruit new lifters.
“Everything that we did the past few years as far as recruiting and welcoming people into the tradition was really just that we wanted to share the tradition with other people,” John said.
Now, Msgr. Jamie says it’s time to make the Giglio Feast part of the Church’s evangelization efforts once again.
“The young people in the neighborhood will question, ‘Why do these people come from all over?’ and maybe they’ll say, ‘I want to be a part of that,’ or ‘I want that in my life,’” Msgr. Jamie said of the community.
Msgr. Jamie is not worries about the life of the feast, but what is a concern is what happens at Our Lady of Mount Carmel without its biggest fundraiser during a year when churches are closed?
“We rely on the profits from the feast to support the parish for the whole year,” he explained.
The feast committee is now reaching out in different ways with raffles and donations to help meet its financial goal, all while keeping the real goal in mind.
“That is our only goal to continue this tradition, to keep our parish healthy and to pass this on to the next generation,” John said.
For now the Giglio remains on the ground while the fate of this year’s feast remains up in the air.