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First St. Louis Mass Mob evokes memories, pride for north St. Louis church

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Pat DeWitt often played in the priests' garage at Most Holy Trinity Church in north St. Louis.

"They had this big old garage," DeWitt recalled. "A lot of times nobody would be there, so my girlfriends and I would set up our doll stuff inside. Father Schoen was the pastor when I was here. If he'd come home when we had all our stuff set up out there, he'd just go park on the street."

That was the 1950s, when her family lived on on Destrehan Street, one street south of the church. She attended the school from kindergarten through fifth grade but hadn't been back in decades — until April 12, when she returned for the first St. Louis Mass Mob. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson celebrated Mass for about 500 people, well over the average attendance on most Sundays at the parish, located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of north St. Louis.

The Mass mob concept, popularized several years ago in Buffalo, N.Y., has been spreading through other cities, including Columbus, Detroit, Kansas City and Chicago. Borrowing from the "flash mob" idea, in which a large group of people suddenly come together to perform a random act, a Mass Mob gathers people for worship and to raise awareness and appreciation for some of the city's historic churches, said Michael Kress, director of mission advancement at Most Holy Trinity.

Most Holy Trinity was founded 1848 as a German Catholic parish right smack in the middle of a booming trade town. In the early years it grew, and other parishes formed nearby. Post-war sprawl to suburban St. Louis and the construction of Interstate 70 through the parish territory led to the parish's decline in numbers over the years. The school, which was opened as a German language school for boys in 1849, continues today as a co-ed institution for kindergarten through eighth graders.

Pastor Father Richard Creason said he hopes the Mass mob will contribute to a continued revitalization of urban neighborhoods in St. Louis.

"This is a great celebration for the city of St. Louis," he said. "People are reviving interest in this as a place to live, as a place to raise children and a place to do business. Parishioners really got excited and wanted to show off our very best self," he noted. "They have worked very hard in helping us to do that in ways that will be very welcoming to people, and offer hospitality that makes a visit to the church a great gift."

Attending Mass with Pat DeWitt was Jan Telthorst, who also lived in the parish as a child. They met as parishioners at Holy Spirit in Maryland Heights and discovered they both lived in the same house on Destrehan Street, about 10 years apart. One of Telthorst's favorite childhood memories at Most Holy Trinity was the May procession.

"If the mothers were able to sew ... (they) would make us these long dresses. We wore those and processed around the school and church. I remember it was yellow with little pink flowers," she added with a grin.

Archbishop Carlson connected the Mass Mob with the call of the first disciples to be ambassadors for Christ. It's one way in which Catholics can share their love for Christ and His Church as "dynamic Catholics" — a phrase found on the backs of shirts worn by parish volunteers at the Mass.

"We must leave here today just like those first disciples," Archbishop Carlson said. "We're all called to be ambassadors for Christ."

 

Future Mass Mobs

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