If you’re unfamiliar, the idea is to designate a specific Mass at a specific Catholic Church on a specific date and encourage people throughout WNY to attend. The purpose is to raise awareness of the Queen City’s wealth of historic churches and to encourage their preservation.
The first Mass Mob took place in December at St. Adalbert’s Basicilla on Buffalo’s east side. Round two was set at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church (OLPH) built in 1897 on O’Connell St. in the First Ward.
OLPH is tucked away on a street less traveled, in a neighborhood once vibrant with Irish immigrants and waterfront commerce. Yet when entering the Gothic style church its beautiful elegance still defines it as a significant house of worship, despite neighborhood and parish decline.
The usual gathering of Sunday worshipers at OLPH numbers around 50. Today Mass Mob brought the church to standing room only tinged with an electric atmosphere. Mass celebrant, Fr. Donald Lutz, energized the congregation preaching a sermon of inclusiveness and caring, with a nod to Pope Francis’ encompassing attitude. Even the requisite passing of the collection baskets took on a sense of wonder as OLPH ushers were slowed by the increased donations from the many gathered.
Yet from the perspective of an Irish woman raised in the Catholic faith, the most significant moment of this second Mass Mob came at the Communion, the most sacred part of the service. As OLPH parishioners and Mass Mob visitors merged on their way to the church’s altar, a soft buzz of conversation briefly filled the sanctuary. It took me a moment to realize that the unusual behavior was joyful interaction among those gathered in celebration of their religious traditions and their community’s heritage. A wondrous moment of unity.
While Mass Mob is dedicated to inspiring the WNY Community, it might benefit the Catholic Church to witness that when you give respectful consideration to people and their lives, they will come.
Looking forward to Mass Mob 3.