Return visits to Ste. Anne, St. Francis D'Assisi on 2019 calendar as movement retains Detroit roots

DETROIT — Six years in and still going strong, the Detroit Mass Mob shows no signs of slowing down.

Inspired by a similar movement in Buffalo, the group has been organizing “Mass Mobs” — when a large group of non-parishioners gather to worship at a historic inner-city parish — since 2014.

Mass Mobs are a chance for suburbanites and former parishioners of some of Detroit’s more historic parishes to peek inside the impressive edifices that dot the city and take in the splendor of the timeless art and architecture present in Detroit and its inner-ring suburbs.

This year’s Mass Mob will visit six parishes in the city, bringing the total number of Masses up to 51, according to St. Charles Borromeo parishioner and Mass Mob co-organizer Thom Mann.

“It is a bit shorter schedule this year because in April we had a late Palm Sunday and some challenges with scheduling, but we have a good schedule with some repeat visits and visits to parishes that coincide with their festivals,” Mann told Detroit Catholic.

The Detroit Mass Mob’s sixth season begins with Mass Mob XLVI at Our Lady Queen of Heaven-Good Shepherd Parish, 8200 Rolyat in Detroit, at 10 a.m. on Sunday, June 9.

The schedule bounces around the city with stops at Sacred Heart Chapel on the campus of Marygrove College — where St. Peter Claver Parish gathers — Our Lady of the Rosary, Ste. Anne de Detroit, St. Francis D’Assisi and Nativity of Our Lord, bringing the total number of Mass Mobs up to 51 by the year’s end.

St. Francis D'Assisi Parish on Detroit's west side is packed to the seams during a Mass Mob in 2014. (Tim Hinkle | Detroit Catholic file photo)

Some highlights on the schedule include being at Our Lady Queen of Heaven-Good Shepherd for the parish’s 44th annual “Good Times” festival; visiting Our Lady of the Rosary for the first time since the St. Philip Neri Oratory-in-Formation took charge of the Midtown parish; and coming to Ste. Anne de Detroit in conjunction with the parish’s third Rendezvous Festival.

“We really leave organizing the day up to the church,” Mann said. “We don’t dictate what they do, but most of the time we go to the parish planning meeting to go over some things. They might need a few extra ushers to help people find a seat and to take in the collection. Generally we need people for parking and directions. Some parishes have a banquet after, but it’s not required.”

Mann and other Mass Mob organizers say people enjoy visiting historic Detroit parishes through Mass Mobs because it is a chance to reconnect with a parish where they or their parents and grandparents were baptized, to walk in the old neighborhoods where their families have roots or to take in the breathtaking architecture of churches more than a century old.

“Some are drawn to the architecture, the curiosity of seeing the beauty of these historic Detroit churches they drive past but have never been inside,” said John Bentley, who video records Mass Mobs and gets the reaction of Mass Mob-goers on going to Mass in the historic church.

“We have a lot of people who used to go to church there at one time, or say their mother or grandmother was baptized there,” Bentley said. “And we have parishioners from these parishes today, those who keep these parishes alive and going. That is what impresses me and what I love about coming to these events.”

During his interviews with Mass Mob attendees, Bentley said people are taken aback by the beauty and are amazed by the army of volunteers who keep Detroit’s historic churches going.

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron greets Mass Mob goers at St. Francis D'Assisi Church in Detroit in 2014 during a Mass Mob. The movement, in its sixth season in Detroit, will return to St. Francis this year. (Tim Hinkle | Detroit Catholic file photo)

“Not only the dedication of the keeping these parishes open, but their unbelievable commitment to the surrounding community,” Bentley said. “Many of these inner-city parishes have food pantries and clothes closets that serve the outside community. It is amazing what these Detroit parishes do for the surrounding neighborhood.

Mann added that as interest in Detroit and urbanism has grown in recent years, the Detroit Mass Mob has served as a vehicle for people to check out parts of the city  many Mass Mob-goers haven’t visited in years, and to see that faith in the city is alive.

“When you look at what the archbishop is asking us to do with going out and preaching the Gospel, this is a way to do that,” Mann said. “Many of these neighborhoods might not know what is going on in these churches, and this is an opportunity to have thousands of people to come in and show that there is life here, there is celebration happening here.

“It is my hope, then, that these parishes can use it as a bit of an advertisement in the neighborhood, where the priest will invite the neighbors to come inside and see what it is all about,” Mann said. “It isn’t like we can build a church and people will come, or have a Mass Mob and expect all to come. We need to actively draw people in, to show the faith is still here, that we are still celebrating.”

2019 Detroit Mass Mob schedule

Mass Mob XLVI — Our Lady Queen of Heaven-Good Shepherd, 8200 Rolyat, Detroit, June 9 at 10 a.m.; Bishop Donald Hanchon as celebrant.

Mass Mob XLVII — Sacred Heart Chapel at Marygrove College, 8425 W. McNichols, Detroit, June 23 at 10 a.m.

Mass Mob XLVIII — Our Lady of the Rosary, 5930 Woodward Ave., Detroit, July 14 at 10 a.m.

Mass Mob XLIX — Ste. Anne de Detroit, 1000 Ste. Anne, Detroit, Sept. 15 at 12 p.m.

Mass Mob L — St. Francis D’Assisi, 4500 Wesson Ave., Detroit, Oct. 15 at 10 a.m.

Mass Mob LI — Nativity of Our Lord, 5900 McClellan Ave., Detroit, Nov. 17 at 9:45 a.m.