Pope Francis is stimulating a resurgence in Catholicism worldwide. I have written before about his early moves to break down the walls of the Papacy, and the “Francis Effect” continues as he has started: declaring himself to be ‘ordinary’, saying “Who am I to judge?” when asked about gays, uttering the f*** word, making his confession to an rank-and-file priest, and even taking a meeting with Noah star Russell Crowe. He also had a major swipe at the Italian Mafia – just last week reputed to have a turnover bigger than the entire budget of the European Union – by saying “Repent or end up in hell”.
A new movement called “Mass Mobs” – unrelated to his targeting of the Mafia – has sprung up in Buffalo New York. As reported by local news channel Wibv.com, they are intended to draw large congregations via social media to experience some of Buffalo’s great Catholic churches that many residents have forgotten about in recent years.
A week ago the third and largest mass mob in Buffalo 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 on March 23 about 800 people came to the congregation.
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.”
Father Bob Pecoraro of St. John Kanty Church said that “To get up to the altar and turn around and see the church filled to capacity, it brings an energy.”
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.
It’s a movement that is now spreading across the country. The New York Times reports that Mass mobs have formed in Rochester, New York City, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and near New Orleans.