Detroit “Mass Mob” fills city’s largest church

Detroit “Mass Mob” fills city’s largest church July 13, 2014


For the third time in a row, the Detroit Mass Mob movement filled every seat and spilled out the doors today at another historic, architecturally awe-inspiring Catholic church in Detroit.

An estimated 1,800 curious Catholics, many who attend suburban parishes, made for a standing room only crowd at Sweetest Heart of Mary Catholic Church at 4440 Russell, considered the largest Catholic church in the city.

“We didn’t expect almost 2,000,” said Jeff Stawasz, a Detroiter and Catholic school graduate who teamed up with other volunteers through social media to launch the movement. It’s designed to introduce suburban Catholics to historical, yet struggling, churches in Detroit.

The Mass Mob, said Stawasz, is “a wonderful marriage of history and Catholicism in the metro area and this is why we have the crowd today. There are so many ties to these old parishes, through parents and grandparents. These Baby Boomers want to go back to these heritage churches.”

An announcer twice reminded the crowd to keep quiet because they were in a place of prayer, as people filed into the church before the service. Most of the visitors were seeing the church for the first time and were dazzled by its stained glass and architectural gems. Archdiocese of Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Francis Reiss, who lives in the church’s rectory, welcomed the crowd to today’s service.

Although he wasn’t in attendance, Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron tweeted out a video Friday saluting the Detroit Mass Mob’s outing. Vigneron called the Mass Mob “a wonderful idea” for Catholics to visit historic churches and “to experience their beauty as a way to be renewed in your faith.”

It was the Mass Mob’s fourth outing since organizers met serendipitously through social media. The group started with visits to Detroit churches St. Hyacinth in April and St. Charles Borromeo in May, boosting attendance and the weekly collection. Some 900 people turned out two weeks ago at St. Joseph Church near Eastern Market,contributing $14,500 — seven times what is typical — to help with that 141-year-old church’s upkeep.

Tony Ziebron, who assisted as an altar server  at the Sweetest Heart mass and is a longtime church volunteer, said church leaders estimated the crowd at 1,800. The amount of the collection at the mass was not available.

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