RELIGION
10/12/2014 09:13 am ET Updated Oct 13, 2014

'Mass Mobs' Are Filling The Pews At Detroit's Catholic Churches

It’s a plan with mass appeal.

With all the fervor of a typical “flash mob,” faithful Catholics in Michigan are joining "Mass Mobs" to fill the pews at often-empty church buildings and breathe new life into the community.

Their latest target was St. Florian Catholic Church in Detroit, which according to NPR sees only about 200 churchgoers for a noon mass. That kind of crowd can leave the 107-year-old church, with a capacity for 1,500, more than a little empty.

But after “Mass Mob” organizers spread the word on Facebook, last Sunday's noon mass attracted between 1,800 and 2,000 people, according to the group's social media account.

Detroit Mass Mob embedded via Facebook

NPR reports that the huge crowd brought in $19,000 -- 10 times more than an average Sunday -- to the church's collection plates.

"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," Rev. Mirek Frankowski told NPR.

The percent of American adult Catholics who say they attend Mass every week has spiked slightly in the past 10 years, rising from 23% to 24%, according to The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. Still, it’s a large drop from the 1960s, when an estimated 55% of Catholics attended church on any given week.

The situation saddens Catholics like Thom Mann, one of the organizers for Detroit Mass Mob.

"People are upset that the churches are closing, but the simple reason is, people don't go," Mann told NPR. "When you have a church that seats 1,500 people, and there's 100 people there or less, how are they going to keep them open?"

Mann said he got the idea for a religious flash mob after seeing a similar movement pop up in New York earlier this year.

Crowds of Catholics in the Buffalo area traveled to experience the art and architecture of old church buildings, the AP reports.

Since Buffalo, other mass mobs have been organized in New York City, Cleveland, Rochester, and Philadelphia, The New York Times reports.

Next stop for the Detroit crew is the St. Francis D'Assisi, a 111-year-old church building. Sunday’s Mass will be led by Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Note: This article has been revised to address similarities in phrasing used by one of its sources, and to clarify that sourcing.

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