WILLIAMSBURG – Determined to carry on with tradition even during the coronavirus pandemic, leaders at the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel are moving ahead with plans to mark the church’s feast day with scaled-down celebrations.
While there will be no procession of the Giglio along the streets of Williamsburg, the church will livestream a virtual Giglio celebration on Sunday, July 12 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. that will feature photos of past processions as well as live music.
On Feast Day, Thursday, July 16, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio will celebrate Mass at the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at noon.
“Although this year’s Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel will not be celebrated with the usual festivities, the spiritual significance of the feast will take an even greater position,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “The message of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is one of Mary’s motherhood caring for the children that Christ gave her as He hung on the cross. We rejoice as her children at our Mother’s feast as she gives us such great spiritual assistance.”
Following the Mass, there will be a procession along the streets in which volunteers will carry a statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Attendance at both the Mass and the procession will be limited.
“We’re not having a regular feast this year but we’re doing other things to honor the tradition,” said Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello, pastor of the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Leading up to the feast day, there will be novenas in English and Italian on July 13, 14, and 15 at 7:30 p.m.
On July 16, there will be a 5 p.m. Mass in Polish, a 6:30 p.m. Mass in Spanish, and an 8 p.m. Mass in Creole. Benediction will take place at 9:30 p.m.
Normally, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel takes place over 12 days in July, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors to Williamsburg to enjoy delicious sausage sandwiches, going on rides, and dancing to music provided by live bands.
The centerpiece of the feast each year is the Procession of the Giglio, an Italian-American tradition dating back to 1903 and featuring hundreds of able-bodied people carrying a 72-foot-tall, 4-ton “Giglio” statue on their shoulders as they dance down the street to joyous music.
Msgr. Gigantiello made the painful decision in May to cancel this year’s Giglio procession due to the coronavirus pandemic.
At the time the announcement was made, he expressed a determination to hold the feast in some form, even if it meant scaling it back and having it take place over the course of a weekend. He ultimately decided that a street festival would be impossible given social distancing rules that are still in place in New York City.
This year marks only the second time the Procession of the Giglio has been canceled. The march was called off in 1945 at the tail end of World War II when there was a shortage of able-bodied men to carry the Giglio.
“I think it’s going to be a sad day for a lot of people that we can’t have the Giglio. We haven’t had to cancel it in 75 years. For people who are younger than 75, the Giglio has been around their whole lives,” Msgr. Gigantiello said.
The cancelation made him more determined to find a way to celebrate the church’s feast day. “We want to make sure we honor our traditions,” he said.
The article was updated to include a statement from Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio.