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The Surprise Boost of Mass Mobs

A twist on the Flash Mob is helping to save historic Catholic churches.

Illustration Credit: Tabernacle Series by Kara Waxman

A typical Sunday Mass at the historic Sweetest Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church on Detroit’s East Side is an all-too-quiet gathering. Despite the building’s grand edifice, the congregation is humble—usually around 150 parishioners—leaving the pews that were built to seat 1,400 achingly empty.It’s an increasingly common problem, especially in Rust Belt cities, where population loss has led to shrinking attendance at Catholic churches. Less participation means less money in the offertory baskets each week, putting these historic sanctuaries on shaky financial ground.But earlier this year, something of a miracle happened: one Sunday morning in July, more than 1,800 people showed up for Mass at Sweetest Heart, packing the church so tightly that the faithful were standing in the aisles. They were there for Sunday services, yes, but they were also there to partake in something much larger: a nationwide movement known as “Mass Mob.”Like Flash Mobs, Mass Mobs use social media to gather people together at a specific time and place—but that’s where the similarities end. While Flash Mobs rally folks for seeming …

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