Mass Mobs Uplift Faithful in Buffalo

Catholics in the Buffalo, New York area are putting a new spin on the “flash mob” by coming together in “Mass mobs” where they fill the pews at older and more sparsely attended churches to give the parish a spiritual and financial lift.

The Associated Press (AP) is reporting that the mobs are comprised of the faithful who agree via Facebook and Twitter to attend Mass at a specific church in the area on a particular Sunday. These are usually older churches built by immigrants who have long since left the area or moved out into the suburbs. Many of these churches, which are in danger of closing, not only have a rich history of worship, but are filled with exquisite stained glass, marble altars and statuary that just isn’t seen in new churches these days.

“I call these churches faith enhancers. You can’t help but walk in and feel closer to a higher power,” said Christopher Byrd, 46, founder of the Mass mobs, who has staged two events thus far that drew hundreds of people.

His aim is to “reignite interest, support and perhaps even membership in older churches that ‘kind of fall off the radar screen of people’,” he told the AP.

The site and date is selected by a voting process that takes place online and promoted by Facebook and Twitter that is meant to draw in large numbers of people. Once there, visitors to the church can not only experience the beauty of these older churches, but they can once again fill the pews – and the collection basket – as in days gone by.

The Rev. Donald Lutz, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a parish situated in an area settled by Irish immigrants along the Buffalo River, was thrilled when his parish was chosen for a Mass mob. In 1900, 800 families attended Mass there on Sunday. Now that number has dropped to about 50. But on the morning of the Mass mob, it was standing-room-only.

“It just shows that we are not just one parish, that it’s the whole family of the diocese. We take care of each other,” Fr. Lutz told the AP. “And, if it helps us pay a few more bills …”

Byrd is planning six Buffalo Mass mobs a year and says he has been contacted by people in other cities who are interested in starting Mass mobs in their area.

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