What’s New In New York? A Catholic “Mass Mob”

You’ve seen “Flash Mobs” surprise shoppers in the mall, enchant tourists in the National Museum of Art, and bring the strains of classical music to European street corners.

Now there’s something new:  In Buffalo, New York, there’s the Catholic “Mass Mob”!

In that city, as in many metropolitan areas around the country, stately churches in urban areas are losing their congregations and struggling to remain open.  So mobs of Roman Catholics are showing up at some older churches–filling the pews for Sunday Mass, and offering much needed support.

How does it work?  News of the planned Mass Mob is transmitted via Facebook, Twitter and other social media.  Yahoo! News has the story:

On a given Sunday, participants attend Mass en masse at a church they’ve picked in an online vote and promoted through Facebook and Twitter. Visitors experience the architecture, heritage and spirit of the aging houses of worship and the churches once again see the numbers they were built for, along with a helpful bump in donations when the collection baskets are passed.

“I call these churches faith enhancers. You can’t help but walk in and feel closer to a higher power,” said Christopher Byrd, who hatched the idea in Buffalo last fall and has organized two Mass mobs so far, both of which drew hundreds. He’s heard from other cities about starting their own.

The aim, he said, is to reignite interest, support and perhaps even membership in older churches that “kind of fall off the radar screen of people.”

At Buffalo’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help, there were 800 families when the parish opened in 1900.  Today, fewer than 50 worshippers attend a regular Sunday liturgy.  The day of the planned Mass Mob, though, it was standing-room-only–and attendees opened their wallets, offering much-needed support for the struggling parish.

The “Mass Mob” idea originated with 46-year-old Christopher Byrd, who started the project last fall and has held two highly successful Mass Mobs so far.   An activist in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood where he grew up, Byrd  plans to organize about six events per year, with the next one scheduled for March 23.  On-line voting begins next week, and the public will be invited to help select the church to visit in the Spring.

Read more about it.


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