BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Named after “flash mobs” which create viral videos on the internet, “Mass mobs” are meant to draw large congregations to experience some of Buffalo’s great Catholic churches that many residents have forgotten about in recent years. It’s a movement that started in Buffalo and is now spreading across the country.
A Mass mob today focused on St. John Kanty Church in east Buffalo’s Polonia neighborhood. This historic church is only about one-eighth full on most typical Sundays. But today it was like a flashback in time for the majestic church.
Gregory Witul, one of the event organizers, explained the goal of a Mass mob, “We thought, hey, wouldn’t it be great to get people to come out to some of these neglected Catholic churches, check out some of the wonderful architecture, the beautiful stained glass, the mural work.”
Mass mob organizers use social media to find Catholics willing to fill the pews at one of these old churches and, in turn, give parishioners a look back in time.
“My family’s from this neighborhood – the old neighborhood as they call it – and it’s really great to come here and see people in it,” said Mary Beth Lacki, a Mass mob participant.
Father Bob Pecoraro S.J. of St. John Kanty Church said that the Sunday congregation usually ranges from approximately 100 to 120 people. But today the church saw close to 800 people in attendance.
“These priests can see what these churches were like when they were filled with 600, 700 and 1,000 people,” Witul explained was another result of these events.
“To get up to the altar and turn around and see the church filled to capacity, it brings an energy,” Ft. Pecoraro said.
The parish, established in 1892, also can see a renewed energy to the collection plate. “These parishes were built by Catholics who really had pennies. They practically had no money at all and they built these grand structures to show their love for their religion,” Witul said.
This was the third Mass mob in Buffalo and the largest so far. It’s now being replicated in other areas across the nation. According to a recent article in The New York Times, Mass mobs have formed in Rochester, New York City, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and near New Orleans.