By Tim Johnson
SOUTH BEND, FORT WAYNE — “Mass Mobs” have infiltrated the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Inspired by “Mass Mobs” in Buffalo, New York, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and New York City, the faithful make a monthly visit to a historic and heritage church, most often in the inner city where attendance has been low or the parish struggles financially.
Through websites, or social networking on Facebook or Twitter, the faithful are informed which parish is on the monthly roster and then visits that parish en masse a particular date and time.
Christopher Simpson, who serves as spokesman for the newly formed “South Bend Mass Mob,” told Today’s Catholic that after realizing there are great churches in South Bend, the Knights of Columbus helped rally the faithful for the upcoming first Mass Mob in South Bend at St. Stanislaus Church, which will be on Saturday, Dec. 6, at 4:30 p.m.
“The bishops suggested that the Knights take on Mass Mob,” said Bartholomew Timm, one of the South Bend organizers. “We believe we have the manpower and the capability to organize the Mass Mobs, and the Knights have a long history of performing charitable acts and working in the community. While we welcome participation of anyone in the community, at present this first Mass Mob is being totally coordinated by the Knights.”
The goal of the Mass Mob project is to raise awareness in the community about the presence of these churches, to encourage Catholics to come back to Church, and to help parishes that may be struggling because of a lack of parishioners by raising awareness and raising funds through the presence of the Mass Mob.
Timm related that in South Bend, “We start by talking with the parish pastor to set a time and date. We gather as much history of the church as we can, and we will take pictures of the church, for use on our social media. We will also put the history and these pictures on a disc for the parish to use as it sees fit. Our plan to help them as they move forward is to do our best to make them aware, if they aren’t already, of the resources of the diocese, and of the Knights of Columbus.”
“If a parish has a commitment to a certain cause — such as collecting coats for children in the winter — we would encourage participants to bring a coat to donate.” Timm added. “Our goal as Knights is to help where we can.”
“At present we have a half dozen parishes targeted,” Timm said, noting that the parish list is based on consultation with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. “And we want to generate interest and excitement so we will be announcing them three to four weeks in advance of the Mass Mob. This is different from models in other cities where parishes are selected by those voting on the webpage.”
The South Bend Mass Mob has a Facebook page. “Please come and ‘like’ us, and invite all your friends to ‘like’ us and to accept an invitation to attend the event on Dec. 6,” Timm encouraged. They also have a website — www.SouthBendMassMob.com — and a Twitter account — @SoBendMassMob.
In Fort Wayne, the faithful already held their first Mass Mob pilgrimage to St. Henry Parish in the southeast part of the city at the 10:30 a.m. Mass on Nov. 9.
The Fort Wayne group is coordinated by real estate agent Karen Ewing and Sheri McBride, director of underwriting and advertising at Redeemer Radio. McBride coordinates the Facebook page, “Fort Wayne, South Bend Mass Mob,” and has utilized social media to inform those interested.
Karen Ewing told Today’s Catholic, “The Holy Spirit has orchestrated this idea in ways beyond our understanding.”
After reading about the successes in Detroit, Ewing posted on Facebook, “Who is in on this awesomely, amazing, spiritual idea with me?”
The Facebook page has garnered a large number of followers in a very short time.
McBride noted that oftentimes the faithful become insular in their own parish life. “We thought it would be a really great idea to encourage people to look at the universal Church and visit parishes they always wanted to visit,” McBride said.
Another reason for the Fort Wayne group is architectural interest — visiting glorious old churches, well established in and outside the city — to help the faithful appreciate the historical significance of the parishes in the diocese.
The Mass Mob at St. Henry on Nov. 9 doubled the church’s 10:30 a.m. Mass Sunday attendance. Father Dan Durkin, pastor of St. Henry Parish, noted that there were 120-plus more people than usual at that Mass.
“Whenever there are more people in attendance it usually lifts my spirits,” Father Durkin said. “We did what we usually would do, adding a little more of a hospitable spirit and a smile on our face. We would welcome this happening here at St. Henry’s in the future.”
He added, “Our services for the poor got a shot in the arm. … Other parishes are stepping forward with food collections and the like.”
“What St. Henry’s does need is more people to come back home and remember their roots and pray that we can continue to love the Lord with all our heart,” Father Durkin said, adding, “Miracles happen here all the time. We would welcome their return anytime.”
The Fort Wayne group will visit a selected parish on the second Sunday of the month. The name of the next parish pilgrimage will be released on Facebook the week after the visitation. For more information “like” the Facebook page at “Fort Wayne, South Bend Mass Mob.”
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.