By Tim Harfmann
It was a celebration in Williamsburg, Brooklyn as Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio rededicated the Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The church received new life after a yearlong renovation. “Today’s a very exciting day because this is a church that probably should’ve been closed because it was such in bad repair. So, it’s a great joy to see a church being put back into service that can be very functional,” said Bishop DiMarzio.
Hundreds of worshipers filled the pews and the lobby of the nearly 150-year-old church. The March 24th re-dedication included Bishop DiMarzio sprinkling the congregation with holy water — a reminder of their baptism; the bishop anointed the altar with sacred chrism, the same oil used during the sacrament of confirmation; and Bishop DiMarzio also installed Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello as the church’s new pastor. Monsignor oversaw the entire restoration of the church. “I feel like a kid’s first time in Disney World. I renovated a few churches and some parishes, but this truly is a gem. This is, probably, one of my greatest accomplishments,” said Monsignor Gigantiello.
Monsignor said a key to the church’s rebirth has been the Lithuanian Catholic community. Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is believed to be the only church in the five boroughs with a weekly Lithuanian Mass. “They’re ecstatic because they were always living in the fear that the church would close, and they would have nowhere to go and would lose their home,” said Monsignor Gigantiello. Now, the parishioners are looking forward to a bright future. “It’s so exciting. We’ve been worshiping here since 1914. And to see the wonderful renovation of the church, it just ensures that we’ll be here for decades to come,” said Raymond Slizys, a member of the Lithuanian community. “Everybody is invited now and everybody feels that God is here. We’re invited to renew our home, new church. We like it a lot,” said Rasa Sbrindys, another member of the community.
The celebration was accompanied by the announcement that Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish will merge with Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which is located blocks away. “My goal is to make it one community,” said Monsignor Gigantiello. He also serves as pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish.