By Michael Rizzo
BAYSIDE — A fall tradition returned to American Martyrs Parish on Oct. 24 when churchgoers got to take home free pumpkins grown upstate by fellow parishioners in fields blessed with holy oils from the annual Chrism Mass of Holy Week.
More than 500 pumpkins were given away after a 10:30 a.m. Mass from a flatbed trailer sitting near the church’s parking lot. Linda and John Limberg, longtime American Martyrs parishioners, had brought the pumpkins down from their Delaware County farm, as they have for about 10 years.
Deacon Stan Galazin, the parish’s permanent deacon, announced the pumpkin giveaway at the end of Mass and thanked the Limbergs for their generosity.
John Limberg, a parish eucharistic minister and member of its Father John J. Murray Knights of Columbus Council, explained to the congregation that for three previous years, bears and deer had invaded the farm and devoured the pumpkin crop. However this year, he said, the Limbergs were able to see the crop through to harvest after erecting an electrified fence to keep the hungry animals away.
“This is the best half-hour of the year for me,” Limberg said of the giveaway and his fellow parishioners’ response. “It’s a lot of work, but what I get back, you couldn’t put a price tag on. Growing up in the Bronx, pumpkins were too expensive. This is my way of giving back.”
Deacon Galazin, who helps with the pumpkin planting and harvesting, also blesses the fields with oils from the Chrism Mass of the Diocese of Brooklyn. The oils are used by parishes for sacramental anointing. He said that, after Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has blessed the new oils each year, he takes oil from the previous year for use at the Limbergs’ farm.
“Using the oil ties in the relationship of the pumpkin crop with the Church,” Deacon Galazin said.
The leftover oil is used to bless the fields as way to discard it in a proper way — by being poured into the Earth.
“I’m honored the oils are given to me to use,” Limberg said. “I treat the land like it’s sacred because God does amazing things in nature. The oils are like spreading part of the faith in the land, and I know faith is growing in the land.”
Oils blessed annually by bishops of dioceses for use in their parishes include chrism, used in sacraments and in the dedication of churches; the oil of catechumens, used in baptisms; and the Oil of the Sick, used in the ritual of Anointing of the Sick.
The response to the pumpkin giveaway was so enthusiastic that within a half-hour after the end of the Mass, all but a few of the pumpkins were taken.
Parishioner Juan Mendez went out of his way to find John Limberg and thank him.
“My sons are in college now, but they remembered the giveaways and always looked forward to this,” Mendez said. He noted that the Limbergs’ generosity was symbolic of the spirit of the parish, adding: “We share with each other and that’s what makes us special.”
The young parishioners showed the most enjoyment as they sought out a great pumpkin. Catherine Margarone, who will receive her first holy Communion next April, said she loved being able to pick her own treasure. Julianna Shoule said she could hardly wait to get her pumpkin home to paint a unicorn on it, and pre-teen Liam Cruz was grateful to have obtained one of the gourds for the first time.
Limberg and Deacon Galazin said there’s one other person in the diocese who will definitely receive some of this year’s crop: Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. They said he always enjoys the pumpkins, their flowers, fruit, and seeds.