FEATURE | SEPTEMBER 2015
Mass Mobs Vivify Polonian Churches
About 1,400 people gathered for a “mass mob” at the Detroit’s St. Josaphat. Guests packed the historic church, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Detroit Mass Mob has raised about $200,000 in visits to 14 historic, but sparsely attended, churches since April 2014 .
DETROIT — Every month, groups in Buffalo, N.Y. and Detroit pick a church, spread the word on Facebook — and just like that — fill church pews near or over capacity.
Organizers choose historic churches, most of which are known for their architecture, both inside and out. Many are in older, poorer sections, and have minimal attendance. Besides exposing these jewels to a new audience, the churches benefit from donations, sometimes up to ten times their normal collection for a Mass.
At St. Florian Church in Hamtramck — an eight-story, red-brick church built in 1908 by the Polish families who flocked there to work for Dodge, Ford and Packard — the noon Mass brings in an average 200 people, which looks sparse for a building that seats 1,500. Thom Mann, an organizer with Detroit Mass Mob who’s not a regular at St. Florian, had to get here early because, he says, “there’ll be standing room only.”
“People are upset that the churches are closing, but the simple reason is, people don’t go,” Mann says.
Detroit Mass Mob started after Mann saw an article about the Mass Mobs being held in Buffalo. The first event in Detroit drew 150 people. The next had 400. Nine hundred people came to the third Mass. Then they started looking for bigger churches.
At the Mass Mob at St. Florian, 2,000 people showed up.
The priest, the Rev. Mirek Frankowski, who also doubles as music director, said the crowd nearly brought him to tears.
“Because, I mean, such a big crowd, it’s impossible to see these days in any of the churches. But thanks to the Mob Mass we have this feeling of what it was so many years ago, when the churches were filled with people.”
Last month, 1,468 attendees packed St. Josaphat for a Noon Mass. Donations totaled $13,550.00. The previous week’s total was $886.00.
The church’s iconic steeple was recently rebuilt following storm damage that almost forced its closure.
In Buffalo, Buffalo Mass Mob XII celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Czestochowa at Corpus Christi Church in Buffalo’s Historic Polonia District. Other Polonian parishes to benefit from the Mass Mobs were Assumption in the city’s Blackrock section, St. John Kanty on the East Side, and St. Casimir’s, in once-Polonian stronghold of Kaisertown.
The next event in Detroit will be September 13, at St. Hedwig’s, 3245 Junction, for a noon service.
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