Archd. Philadelphia : the spread of Flash “Mass Mobs” to help dying parishes

Remember the news about Mass Flash Mobs in Buffalo, NY?  HERE and HERE

In many cities there are beautiful but languishing parish churches.  Some people are stirring things up to help put them back on the map, inject some life into them.

“Flash Mobs” attend a Mass at one of this tired churches to bring attention to them.

I like the idea.

Now I read that it has spread to Philadelphia.

From CNA:

Philly Catholics join ‘Mass Mob’ trend to support churches

Philadelphia, Pa., Mar 16, 2014 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia have planned their first “Mass Mob” in the north of the city, seeking to rally scores of people to a beautiful but sparsely attended church.

“It’s an opportunity for people from all over the archdiocese to come together as a community,” Mass Mob Philly organizer Ben DiFrancesco, a 28-year-old software engineer, told CNA March 14.

“It’s an opportunity for people to enjoy these big, beautiful, old church buildings that they maybe normally don’t get to see at their regular parish.”

DiFrancesco is one of the organizers who are using social media to encourage as many people as possible to attend Mass at St. Francis Xavier, The Oratory, in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood on the morning of March 23. They are asking attendees to arrive at 11:15 a.m., 15 minutes before the Sunday Mass begins.


Read the rest there.

I send out Fr. Z Kudos to them.

However, I recommend another step.

Want to save these churches?

Implement Summorum Pontificum. Bring back to them the older, traditional form of our rites and sacraments. Bring solid, no-nonsense, hard identity preaching. Foster true sacred music. At the same time, reach out within a traditional presentation of the faith, to Spanish speakers, even if the parish has already a strong ethnic identity.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Wow, I have to read Fr. Z to find out what’s going on in my own Archdiocese! :) As one who is in my first year of attending the TLM (Holy Trinity), I wholeheartedly agree that more tradition in our masses will quickly grow parishes. The pastors seem kind of…afraid to do this.

  2. Andrew D says:

    Philadelphia has some of the nation’s most beautiful Catholic Churches and the Archdiocese has five official places of pilgrimage (Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, Shrine of St. John Neumann, Shrine of the Miraculous Medal, Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia, Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa and the Shrine of St. Katherine Drexel). Sadly, many Churches in this great city have had to close as neighborhoods have changed. The changing of the neighborhoods should have been a call to Evangelization by the Church but, much of the change took place during the post Vatican II era when Catholic Churches were trying hard to be like protestant churches. The result: protestants saw no difference and thus no reason to convert while (many) Catholics became dismayed and left. We can’t change the past but we can (and must) change the present so we can have a future. Holy Trinity Catholic Church at Sixth and Spruce Streets (third oldest Catholic Church in the city) offers the Traditional Latin Mass on Sundays at noon. If you live in or visit Philadelphia often, please support this congregation. Our Lady of Lourdes in the Overbrook Park section of west Philadelphia also offers the TLM on Sundays. Please, if you live in that area or in Lower Merion, support this congregation. A TLM was recently offered at a beautiful parish in the Port Richmond neighborhood: may that become a permanent offering. The Church in this article (St. Francis Xavier in the Fairmount neighborhood) is as you can see, a beauty. It’s also stunningly beautiful on the inside – perfect for offering the TLM. Please everyone pray for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Pray that the TLM will grow and expand into these beautiful Churches and into the hearts of the faithful. One thing you see at Holy Trinity and Our Lady of Lourdes that you didn’t see in the Churches that have recently closed are young families. Enough said.

  3. AnAmericanMother says:

    Plus, in Nicola A. Montani and his first-class “St. Gregory Hymnal and Catholic Choir Book”, Philadelphia has an (almost) native son who pretty much single-handedly revived sacred music in Philadelphia:

    In 1903 Pope Saint Pius X issued his Motu Proprio, which restored pure Gregorian chant, encouraged polyphony, re-affirmed the use of Latin and restricted musical style and instrumental usage for the next sixty years. In Philadelphia, Nicola Montani led the nation in reform.

    Montani (1880-1948) was conductor, composer, editor, and publisher. He founded the St. Gregory Guild in Rittenhouse Square to spread the message of the Motu Proprio and to furnish suitable musical publications. Although a native New Yorker, he spent forty-two of his sixty-seven years in Philadelphia, and his name is irrevocably tied to that city.

    Philadelphia’s Historic Contributions to Catholic Liturgical Music

    Even though we are nowhere near Philly, we ordered 40 copies of the revised edition of the SGH and use it a LOT. When the new archbishop made his debut here with his first class of confirmands, he was somewhat surprised to get the full musical treatment, chant and all, as prescribed by Montani. I hope we made His Excellency happy, because WE had a ball. :-D

  4. mburn16 says:

    “However, I recommend another step.
    Want to save these churches?
    Implement Summorum Pontificum. Bring back to them the older, traditional form of our rites and sacraments. Bring solid, no-nonsense, hard identity preaching. Foster true sacred music…”

    Unfortunately, Father, I must color myself skeptical that this strategy will work. Because in many of these areas, the problem is not that Catholics are no longer going to mass….but that there are no longer Catholics in the area (and often, a limited number of people of any religious – or nonreligious – persuasion who could go to church). This is a problem in many, if not most, major American cities, at least those in the “rust belt”.

    An example: when I lived in Detroit for college, when I wanted to attend an EF mass, I went to a church called St. Josaphat’s. If you continued driving (or walking) down the street this church is on, you would encounter Sweetest Heart of Mary Parish, St. Joseph’s, and St. Elizabeth’s – all within a mile of each other. When the city had a population of two million people, most of them working-class Catholic immigrants and their descendants, each of these parishes was busy enough to hold three masses on Sunday and one on Saturday, and still offer adoration, rosary, and perpetual novena throughout the week. As people’s attachment with going to a church for “their” nationality faded, and more specifically, as they left the city for the suburbs, the congregations dwindled. Today Detroit has a population of less than 700,000 – the vast majority of whom are African American Evangelical Protestants. And the number of Hispanics in many of these cities is actually quite small.

    This isn’t to say that you couldn’t pull people in the Detroit AREA back to the pews (erm…chairs) with “hard identity Catholicism”…..but if you could, they would go to the pews at St. Andrew and Holy Cross and St. Hugo, in the suburbs where they moved to. Its a simple fact that people no longer live where they used to, be they devout, stray, or agnostic.

    Some of the churches will inevitably close, sadly. One strategy that hasn’t been pursued in depth, that I think could hold the answer, would be to establish a “church bank” where the finest elements of these churches that are being closed – the altars, the pews, the organs, the stained glass, the sacred objects, the statues, etc. – are taken out and held until the next time a church in the same diocese (or even somewhere else) remodels or builds anew. And then have STRONG encouragement from the Bishops to seek materials from the church bank before looking elsewhere.

  5. Jackie L says:

    Interestingly the Juventutem groups are doing this type of “Mass Mobs”, only with the TLM. I’ve linked to an article that states that the Michigan group alone, in their first two years, has on thirteen occasions organized a parish’s “first TLM / first TLM since 1970s – including Detroit’s Cathedral and Michigan’s only basilica.”

  6. kpoterack says:

    “organized a parish’s “first TLM / first TLM since 1970s – including Detroit’s Cathedral and Michigan’s only basilica.”

    A TLM in St. Adalbert’s Basilica, Grand Rapids, MI? (Its the only Michigan Basilica which I know.)

  7. Jackie L says:


    Yes, there was a TLM last May at St. Adalbert. Juventutem Michigan has a Facebook page with pictures and details from this mass.

  8. Gratias says:

    Oratorians do the work of The Lord . I hope many of these small congregations of priests will use the TLM while it is not formally suppressed by Pope Francis. All Oratorians in Oxford offer the TLM and one of them was just nominated Auxilliary Bishop of Birminghan by Pope Francisco. Helping the Oratorians in Philadelphia seems an excellent cause.

  9. kpoterack says:

    Jackie L, thank you! I grew up in Grand Rapids and never would have imagined a TLM happening in the basilica. Also, I saw on the Facebook page of one at Resurrection church in Lansing, MI. I went to grad school at MSU 20+ years ago and, again, NEVER would have imagined a TLM happening there! Wow!

  10. jeffreyquick says:

    “Want to save these churches? Implement Summorum Pontificum….”
    I’ve recently been contacted by somebody who wants to do just that with one of the churches closed down by Bp. Lennon in Cleveland (and reopened by Vatican decree). It’s a drop-dead gorgeous place, and I wish him all luck. But he wants to do it at 10AM, with all polyphonic trimmings, on no budget. There are 2 regular Sunday TLMs in town, with volunteer choirs barely big enough to pull it off. And the people who have the voices and training to do it are being paid, generally by Protestants. You’re a musician; you have a clue as to what it takes to make a successful music program: either money or a mob of dedicated and well-trained Catholic musicians. How do we increase the supply of either?

  11. tzabiega says:

    You are right Father Zuhlsdorf about more traditional Masses in Spanish speaking communities. One great example of this is Father Anthony Brankin at St. Odilo’s Church in Berwyn, a suburb of Chicago, which by the way is also the National Shrine of Holy Souls. Father Brankin repeatedly states that the traditional customs that were prevalent when the American Church was more ethnic are not Mexican customs, Polish customs, Irish customs, etc., but simply Catholic customs which should be promoted. So when he came to St. Odilo’s, which only had English language Masses, this Irish American priest implemented both a Spanish Mass for the Latino community that constitutes a majority in the area, and also a Traditional Latin Mass. He now has a Mexican American associate pastor who is learning the ropes and seems to celebrate the masses (both vernacular and TLM) with even greater dignity than Father Brankin. There are many Latinos who flock to traditional parishes like St. John Cantius in Chicago even if simply for confession since the traditional confessor priests are always the best. The goal is though to implement Summorum Pontificum in Hispanic parishes, with Spanish homilies. Hispanics flock to priests who give them hard hitting, spiritually enlightening homilies, so the TLM would appeal to them, as long as priests who have good, enriching homilies in Spanish decided to give it a try. I don’t know of any TLM with Spanish homilies and hymns in the U.S.

  12. kpoterack says:


    Cleveland is a big enough city so that I doubt the supply of professional singers is totally used up. Do what Fr. Paley at Mater Ecclesiae did. Find at least a good conductor who knows the liturgy and then fund raise within the parish for specific Masses. When people see (in this case, hear) that their money is being put to use, they will donate, e.g. “the Palestrina Missa Brevis on Easter Sunday was made possible by a donation by the Smith family, etc.” in the bulletin won’t hurt either.

    Anyway, you might want to talk to Fr. Pasley at Mater Ecclesiae in Berlin, NJ.

  13. Maynardus says:

    In and of itself this is kinda cool, and I hate to throw cold water on it, but is it actually accomplishing anything? As mburn16 noted, the real problem is the changing demographics and it is hard to imagine a flashmob changing that. The one thing that can rescue such a parish church is – as many have stated – to make it a “magnet” parish by means of the TLM. But just having a weekly Mass won’t cut it, that wasn’t enough to save e.g. Holy Trinity in Boston… it would seem that the blueprint for saving a few of these parishes does indeed involve the TLM, but by means of inviting one of the Ecclesia Dei orders into the diocese… not as easy as it sounds, given the reluctance of so many bishops on this score… but that’s how I see things. If anyone has any ideas for leveraging these flashmobs into something ongoing and sustainable I am all ears!

  14. kimberley jean says:

    If you want butts in the pews why not evangelize the people who actually live in the neighborhood?

  15. Fatherof7 says:

    I think returning to our roots will save our beautiful older churches. If anyone is in need of an inspirational story, check out the video on the website of St. Stanislaus in Milwaukee. It is now run by Institute of Christ the King under the auspices of the bishop and offers TLM. The church was gutted in the 1960s and fell into decline to the point that the archdiocese nearly sold the property. It is now blossoming with young families and appears to have a bright future.

    In full disclosure, the video is a fund raising request, but I am not a member there. It is quite inspiring to see the decline and rebirth that the video presents.

  16. Andrew D says:

    One important thing to add to this thread… the neighborhood where this Philadelphia church resides (Fairmount) is not a downscale neighborhood. Quite the opposite. It never went bad and in fact, has become a very popular area over the past 20 years, attracting a lot of young professionals and families. So why aren’t the parish attendance numbers higher? I can’t judge this parish. I went there once and it was a Saturday morning daily Mass instead of Sunday. I can only say that before Vatican II, Catholic Churches across America were filled to capacity on Sunday. Catholics in Philadelphia didn’t say “I live in Fairmount or I live in Grays Ferry”, they said “I live in St. Francis Xavier Parish; I live in St. Gabriel Parish.” We had an abundance of priests, nuns and other religious. Catholic schools were filled to capacity. All of that tragically changed when the Latin Mass was taken away.

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