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Historic 150-year-old Williamsburg church celebrates rededication mass

The historic Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Williamsburg celebrated a milestone re-dedication and consecration ceremony on Sunday, March 24 following a year-long renovation.

The service at the 149-year-old house of worship, 259 North Fifth St., was presided over by the Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, bishop of Brooklyn, and Rev. Msgr. Jamie J. Gigantiello, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and administrator of Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, as well as vicar for development and director of parish giving programs for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.

Gigantiello is also the host of the NET cooking show “Breaking Bread.”

The mass officially marked the merger of Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Our Lady of Mount Carmel parishes and the creation of Our Lady of Mount Carmel-Annunciation Parish.

The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church was built by German-speaking parishioners in 1863; it has been an ethnic Lithuanian Catholic parish since 1914. The beautiful and ornate Romanesque structure also houses a privately run special education preschool and community events.

Highlights of the restoration include the altar, the baptismal font, the ambo, an oblong pulpit, the ceiling and lighting, the murals and the 100-year-old pipe organ brought to the church in 1930. Renovations have all taken place over the last year. The church, opened in 1870, will celebrate its 150th anniversary next year.

Worshippers packed the church for the service with a number of elected officials and community leaders in attendance. Domenick Cama, senior executive vice president and chief operating officer at Investors Bank, attended the mass with his wife. Also at the service was Rolandas Krisciunas, Lithuania’s ambassador to the United States. Members of the Knights of Columbus also attended and participated in the ceremony.

“The service was incredible and I will bring a lot of fond memories back to Washington with me,” Krisciunas told this paper. “It was the first time that I’ve ever seen a rededication mass. It’s very important for the local Lithuanian community to have its own church where they can go to talk to God. The church has played a very important role in Lithuanian history. Wherever Lithuanians are, they will always be looking for a church and this is one of those churches they will be attached to for a very long time.”

Parishioner Camille Marano said she was very impressed with the rededication ceremony and called it one of the most beautiful events she’s witnessed in a church in a very long time.

Church organist Giantare Malinauskaite agreed. “It was very festive and very joyful, and it was very good to see so many people in the church,” said Malinauskaite. “I play for mass every single Sunday so we’re very happy to have the organ and the church back and we hope to have more people coming and joining us for Sunday services.”

Another parishioner, Julie Zukauskas, said that she felt God’s presence during the ceremony. “It was such a nice experience to witness the installation of the altar and to witness and see how Bishop DiMarzio and Msgr. Jamie did it. It was amazingly done and we are truly grateful for having been part of this incredible experience.”

Gigantiello said that it filled his heart with joy to see the church finally restored to its original splendor and packed with parishioners.

“I can’t imagine how many years it’s been since the church was filled like it was today,” he said. “It’s wonderful to have a beautiful church, but if it’s not filled then it defeats the purpose. I want to make sure that this church remains a presence in this community, a presence of God where people can walk in off the streets, where community people whose faith isn’t that strong will be able to come in here and find God in peace in their hearts.”

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