Mass Mob creates 'good problem' for Sts. Teresa and Bridget Parish

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Five minutes before Mass began at Sts. Teresa and Bridget, parishioners were scrambling to set up extra chairs for the overflow crowd.

It was a good problem to have.

The third St. Louis Mass Mob, held Aug. 2 at this parish in the JeffVanderLou neighborhood of north St. Louis, went off without a hitch.

Pastor Father Timothy Cook warned parishioners in advance to expect more people than the normal attendance of 100-120 at 10:30 a.m. Mass. And he was right. About 425 people filled the pews and overflow seating.

While visitors were drawn to the historic church's ornate tapestries on the ceiling depicting Biblical scenes such as the wedding at Cana, the Sermon on the Mount and adoration of the Magi, the parishioners seemed most proud to share their lively style of worship -- Gospel choir, liturgical dancing and a warm welcome with donuts, coffee and juice after Mass.

In addition, they highlighted the care they provide to the neighborhood via ministry, including the St. Louis Crisis Nursery, St. Vincent de Paul food pantry, CHIPS Health and Wellness Center and a partnership with the Missionaries of Charity, their neighbors just down the street.

"People can see that the Church is alive and well in north City," said Father Cook, who was pastor when St. Bridget of Erin and St. Teresa of Avila parishes merged in 2003 and returned to the parish three years ago for another round as pastor. "And this is exactly where we should be to give God praise, but also to reach out to the poor and disenfranchised here."

Daryl Houghton of St. Rita Parish in Vinita Park -- which will host a Mass Mob in 2016 -- brought his son Thomas. The two moved in time to the liveliness of the Gospel choir and were in awe with the beauty of the historical church, built in 1900. "To go out and see this energy at a parish we've never been to, it's invigorating," Daryl Houghton said. "This is what the Church should be all about."

Seeing the pews filled almost brought tears to the eyes of longtime parishioner Paulette Phillips. "I almost didn't come this morning," said Phillips, adding that she felt tired. "But mom always said, 'If God can give you all these hours in the week, you can give Him one.'"

She was glad she came after all. "This was wonderful -- people were saying, 'Thank you for being so welcoming.' That felt so good."

Parishioners from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in Ferguson -- where Father Cook previously served as an associate pastor -- visited, too. Ann Callahan, along with her daughter Maureen, Sharon Heidemann and Gerry Orbin were all smiles as they recapped their experience.

"I loved the music," Ann Callahan said. "Everyone around us was having fun. I liked the diversity; everyone's personal touches are different."

The Mass-mob concept, which has grown in cities across the country in an effort to highlight the beauty of historic churches, has certainly gained a foothold in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

The first two Mass Mobs -- Most Holy Trinity in April and Visitation-St. Ann Shrine in June -- each had an attendance of 400-500 people. Repeat attendees, "mobsters" if you will, are beginning to emerge with their familiar faces and blue-and-white buttons with the St. Louis Mass Mob logo.

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