By Emily Drooby
As the Blessed Virgin was carried out of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, along with it moved a tradition over 100 years old.
The church’s nearly two-week long festival known by many as the ‘Giglio Feast,’ opened with a Mass celebrated by special guest, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Pope Francis’s representative to the United Nations.
Parishioners Connie Leist and Francis Garavuso have both have been attending the festival for over 60 years.
It’s a tradition that was started by their parents when they were young, and one they’ve kept as a part of their life.
“It’s a tradition and we dwell on tradition, we live on tradition,” Connie explained.
“It’s something I don’t want to miss,” Francis agreed.
Their family is one of several who have attended for generations, including Andrew Chalmers, who has taken part in the tradition since he was a baby.
“It’s just good to be with God, I love being here,” he said
The church’s pastor, Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello explained that the dedicated attendance is normal in this tight-knit community.
“It really keeps our parish going, it keeps the parish alive, but also a time for many people to come back to Brooklyn to come back to the neighborhood to their parish and to celebrate our faith and the traditions we were brought up with,” he said.
Every year, thousands gather to see the festival officially opened, the Blessed Mother carried around the streets and the Giglio lit.
On July 14, this 72-foot-tall, four-ton structure will be hoisted into the air by a nearly hundred men.
The 116-year-old tradition is recruiting lifters for the first time this year to make sure that even in the aging and changing neighborhood, they can continue this ritual for another 116 years.
“I came from Cleveland, Ohio to be one of the lifters, or as they say, ‘a lift-tah,’” said Dennis Garriga, who answered the recruitment call from across the country.
After reading about the need, he traveled to Brooklyn to take part, now one of the many new lifters who will be helping to ‘carry’ on this tradition.