By Tim Harfmann
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church prepared for its annual Giglio Feast with a feast on May 1st.
The tradition of the feast features nearly 100 men under the steel beams of the giglio structure, lifting the 72-foot-tall, four-ton tower. At the top of it is an Italian saint.
At the dinner, most of the men have been part of it for decades. “For as long as I can remember,” said John Christopher, Brooklyn resident and longtime lifter.
But in order for the giglio to continue soaring through the Williamsburg skies, extra man power is needed. “At my age, the body, the joints don’t hold up like they used to,” said Achille Pirro, another longtime lifter.
For the first time in the one-hundred-plus-year history, the church is holding a recruitment drive. “It’s getting very hard to get the younger generation involved,” said Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello. He is the church’s pastor. “Many of the lifters that are lifting today grew up in the neighborhood, but since the neighborhood has changed, many people have moved away.” Monsignor Gigantiello said this year’s feast will go on as planned — but recruiting new members is vital to lift the future of the Italian-American tradition.
Along with the dinner, old t-shirts and posters graced the walls of the parish’s gym. Photos and newspaper articles from years past told fond memories. “Like every organization, you need new blood to come in. And you always need men. We want to continue this tradition for another hundred years. To do that — we need new people!” said Mark Masioli, Brooklyn resident and one of the feast organizers.
Nearly 20 new people already signed up. Nino Colombo grew up in Williamsburg and attended the feast as a child. He explained why he’s getting involved almost four decades later; “Try something new for a change, support a friend of mine who’s been doing this for 22 years.”
Sammy Ciorciari, another new lifter, also grew up in the Brooklyn neighborhood. Now a Long Island resident, he’s returning to his roots. “I finally found myself saying, ‘hey, I’ve never been a lifter.’ So, I wanted to take advantage of it.”
The feast isn’t only about tradition, it’s about faith. The men lift the giglio in memory of their late family members and friends. “You’re caring the weight of the world on your shoulder,” said Pirro. “So, you’re kind of doing penance for those who can’t do it for themselves.”
Ciorciari will honor his cousin, Anthony, who died last year; “I will do this in memory of him to keep what we had as kids alive.”
You can sign up online at olmcfeast.com. This year, Giglio Sunday falls on July 14th.