It was a day 58 years in the making. And for Gerard Langone serving as Capo No. 1 at the 12-day Feast that honors Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Paulinus in Williamsburg, it was well worth the wait.
“It’s a great honor,” said Langone as he awaited the parade that would escort him to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church for Sunday Mass. “It’s a celebration of family, faith and tradition.
“I think my wife Helen is even more excited than I am. She starts crying just talking about it.”
About 50 members of the Langone family joined friends for an outdoor breakfast in front of Gerard’s 92-year-old mother Anna’s house on North Ninth St. As the melodious tones of the Giglio Band could be heard in the distance, they all prepared for the arrival.
Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, the new pastor, led the parade. When he arrived at the house, he sprinkled holy water on Langone and blessed him to strengthen him to carry our his duties.
As Capo No. 1, the parish’s highest honor, Langone presided over the Feast. He directed the first lift of the Giglio, an 80-feet high, four-ton structure that is topped by a statue of St. Paulinus. He’ll also coordinate the Old-Timers Lift that will take place on Saturday, July 15.
The Langone family has been part of Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish for generations. Even though he now resides in Middle Village, he still calls Mount Carmel his home parish.
“My first remembrance of the Feast was when I was about seven or eight years old in the 1950s. I was part of the rope gang, the youngsters who help hold back the crowd,” said Langone.
“You do that for a couple of years and then when you’re 15 or 16 you become a lifter. You do that for about 12 to 14 years and you move up in ranks to Lieutenant and finally Capo, which has several grades before you reach No. 1.”
He speaks with pride as he recalls the family history of involvement with the Feast. His grandfather was a lifter. Several uncles were lifters. But he is the first to become Capo.
Following Mass, Langone set off a series of commands and then signaled for the lift to begin. In unison, 100 men beneath the Giglio defied gravity and hoisted the structure off the ground. At Langone’s direction, they detoured the statue down North Ninth St. to his mother’s house, where it came to rest while parishioner Joe Peluso sang the “Ave Maria.”
The festivities continued for hours into the early evening as the Giglio moved up and down Havemeyer St. to meet with a Boat that was carried from the other end to symbolize the fifth-century return of St. Paulinus from captivity in Northern Africa.
As St. Paulinus was welcomed home, he was greeted by lilies or giglie, hence the name of the symbol of the Feast.
This tradition was brought to Brooklyn 130 years ago and has been reenacted each year since. The neighborhood has become less Italian and more “hipster” in recent times.
That’s the challenge for Msgr. Gigantiello.
“We’re being called the leftovers,” he said. “Let’s take the joy that is on our hearts today and live it everyday. Let’s show the newcomers what we are all about.”
Related: Scenes from the 2017 OLMC Feast