BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Bigger than usual crowds filled the pews for Mass on a recent Sunday at St. Agnes Church when a "Mass Mob" visited Brooklyn's Cobble Hill neighborhood.
Inspired by the idea of a "flash mob," the NYC Mass Mob organizes people through social media to attend Mass at a set date and time at Catholic churches around New York's five boroughs.
The first Mass Mob took place in 2013 in Buffalo, and since then similar groups have formed across the country to generate interest in Catholic churches where attendance is declining.
"Our main goal is to bring people to church," said Michael J. Cadigan, a Bayside resident who founded the NYC Mass Mob last year. The movement has already popped up at St. Matthew's Church in Crown Heights and St. Clare Church in Rosedale.
Cadigan launched the evangelization effort to inspire people to connect with the Catholic faith, go to Mass and get involved in parish communities.
The Oct. 18 visit to St. Agnes Church, a worship site of St. Paul-St. Agnes Parish, was determined by public vote via the NYC Mass Mob website earlier this year. The church was vying against four other Brooklyn diocesan parishes, but secured the most votes.
And while the church wasn't literally mobbed with people at the 9:15 a.m. English Mass, there were new faces among the congregation, which included people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds.
"It's not about the numbers; it's about a personal relationship with God," noted Cadigan, who attended Mass with NYC Mass Mob members and followers. "The Holy Spirit brings whoever needs to be here."
Msgr. Joseph Nugent, pastor, welcomed parishioners and visitors, and invited newly ordained Father Christopher Bethge, who served his diaconate year in the parish, to be the main celebrant of the Mass.
Before the final blessing, Msgr. Nugent invited newcomers to stand and be welcomed with applause.
The congregation then moved to the parish hall for coffee and cake.