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Buffalo Mass Mob Returns to the Old First Ward

Note: This is a joint post by Chris Clemens of Exploring Upstate and our own RaChaCha.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help will host their second Buffalo Mass Mob this Sunday, May 26th. It will be the XXXIIIrd Mass Mob that the grassroots organization has hosted since it first began in 2013.

As the first to hold a Mass Mob for the second time, the historic church in the Old First Ward neighborhood in many ways is where the Mass Mob effort really took flight. As over a thousand people filtered in to make history, an Associated Press reporter stood on the front steps of the church. She was poised to tell the story of how four Buffalo natives came together in an effort to ensure that some of the city’s most iconic religious buildings would forever be remembered. And, hopefully, saved.

The concept for the Mass Mob didn’t begin with Our Lady Of Perpetual Help. In fact, it didn’t even begin with the group’s first “mob” at St. Adalbert’s Basilica. It began with a concern that the religious architectural icons of Buffalo could someday be gone forever.

January, 2014 Mass Mob at Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Image: Buffalo Mass Mob)

Taking inspiration from other mob-crazes like a cash mob or a dance mob, a group of friends sought to bring people inside important houses of worship. On one end of the effort, it allowed people to develop a sense of place by having an experience there. At the other end, it also provided some foot traffic, if at least just for the day, which helped added some extra clang to the coffers.

By the second Buffalo Mass Mob at OLPH, the word had spread through Buffalo, and people showed up in droves. The press had gotten hold of the story. There was a buzz about how the effort could help save buildings. I was so into it, I made the trek from Rochester while still on crutches from ankle surgery just weeks before. History was being made!

[Exploring Upstate’s blog post on that OLPH Mass Mob is here and it’s a great read – RaChaCha]

The parish at Our Lady of Perpetual Help was formed on March 25, 1897 when Bishop Quigley joined people together from St. Brigid’s and St. Stephen’s. At the time, the First Ward was as Irish as you could find in Buffalo. This was a proud neighborhood of working class folks who made their living the hard way. The neighboring waterway and shipping operations meant that the families of the First Ward had gainful employment while the grain industry flourished.

There was plenty of people in the parish, and plenty of money to build a big, beautiful church for everyone to worship in.

Image: Chris Clemens, Exploring Upstate

The cornerstone for the neo-Gothic building was laid in November of 1897. They shipped in Medina sandstone and built an edifice that was stately and proud. The interior was designed to wash the nave in a hue of bold colors both the ornate stained glass above. It’s a beautiful space, and served the parish well for many years.

But like so many others, active membership at OLPH has declined over the years. While membership numbers have dipped, the cost of maintaining an aging building has risen exponentially. It’s a reality that a lot of historic spaces are forced to reckon with, particularly a number of historic churches in Buffalo.

That second Buffalo Mass Mob wasn’t just a successful launch at a program. Though, it’s safe to say that the effort has been widely received. Rochester was the second city to have a Mass Mob – in fact, I was one of the organizers! Cleveland was the third (and I’ve attended Mass Mobs, there as well.) Then cities all over the country and eventually other countries have held Mass Mobs.

While it was a success for the effort of campaigning to bring life back to historic spaces, it was also a shot in the arm for OLPH. They’ve since made significant restorations to their space, and with those complete, the stage is set for a revisit of that historic event from January 2014.

[Note: Chris mentioned the press coverage from the January, 2014 Mass Mob that created a buzz for the Mass Mob. That included this story in the Buffalo News and this story by the Associated Press. – RaChaCha]

Chris Clemens is the creator of Exploring Upstate, an award-winning blog of interesting sites in the vast, non-downstate part of New York. Before that, he and a friend teamed up for the blog, Exploring the Burned-Over District, which featured religious sites across the state. As you can see from the many articles he has written about Buffalo, he’s a fan of Our Fair City.

RaChaCha is a longtime blogger for Buffalo Rising and a co-founder of the Buffalo Mass Mob

Get connected (information provided by the Buffalo Mass Mob):

Buffalo Mass Mob XXXIII at Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH)

Sunday, May 26, 10:30AM

This is the second time the Buffalo Mass Mob will be visiting OLPH. The first was the group’s second Mass Mob on January 12, 2014. In the five years since their last visit, a lot has happened at the church. A five-year renovation project where the church’s naive was totally stripped down and rebuilt was completed earlier this year. There was a point where the parish community didn’t know if the they could afford the repairs and were worried about OLPH closing. But the church did raise the funds and the future looks great for the parish.

Buffalo Mass Mob was formed in 2013 to raise awareness of the city’s sacred sites. The concept for Mass Mobs is simple and similar to a flash mob. The group picks a house of worship and asks the public to come to a church’s Sunday service or Mass. The goal is to showcase various churches around Buffalo as places that should be preserved and how they are vital to the fabric of the city.

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Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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