Mass Mob is 'a vibrant experience'

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In the past two decades, there has been a steady decline in the number of parishes in the United States, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. The number of parishes peaked in 1990 at 19,620. In 2014 (the most recent data available) CARA listed the total number of parishes at 17,483.

Mark Gray, a senior research associate at CARA, noted that the Mass mobs in the United States generally involve churches that once served a larger population. Some might now serve a smaller population, and others have been closed altogether.

"You see these alternative worship sites where there's a lot of space, a lot of history; these beautiful buildings where people have a historical, cultural or family connection," said Gray. "Detroit is one of the first areas where we noticed this — people gathering to fill up one of those churches."

Mass mobs have the ability to pull together parish communities and allow Catholics to experience their faith in a different way than the traditional way of attending a territorial parish.

Mass mobs also can appeal to younger Catholics through the mobile experience of worship. "People think of a flash mob or a pop-up restaurant experience," Gray said. "There's something that's neat to a millennial Catholic to be in a space that is vibrant and alive with a lot of people. It might bring some people into the Church who might otherwise not be there."

"It's an interesting and important way to continue to use these worship spaces," he said. Mass mobs create "a more vibrant experience, obviously for the parish, but for the people who are there with the pews filled and meeting Catholics from different areas." 

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