Who knew I’d be writing a Mass Mob post while reading reports of the Diocese of Buffalo declaring bankruptcy? The declaration is primarily in response to hundreds of law suits filed under the Child Victims Act, passed last year. While the Diocese bankruptcy is gut-wrenching, it is nothing compared to the pain and anguish of those whose lives were irrevocably altered and even shattered by clergy abuse.
Although Catholic parishes are not directly affected by the bankruptcy, they are roiled by the same troubled waters affecting the Diocese and individual Catholics. As I’ve written in recent Mass Mob posts, even parishes once considered prosperous now find themselves needing a boost. One of the most acute cases of parishes in distress may be Holy Angels on the west side, which recently announced its intention to close. With this news in mind, the Buffalo Mass Mob will be heading back to Holy Angels this weekend for the 9:00 AM Sunday Mass for Buffalo Mass Mob XXXVII. A half decade and thirty Mass Mobs ago, Holy Angels Church was the site of Buffalo Mass Mob VII, which was a great one. The church was packed, there was a great reception afterward, and even former Congressman John LaFalce, who grew up in the parish, was there.
As it happens, this isn’t the first time in recent years that Holy Angels has faced the prospect of closing. As I wrote at the time of the previous Mass Mob there, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), the religious order that founded the parish and still oversees it, considered closing it several years ago amid a national restructuring driven by the shrinking number of Oblates in their order. Instead, thankfully, they designated the church as a mission site, actually boosting the number of priests and initiates, who could take classes across the street at D’Youville College. At the same time, the Oblates assumed responsibility for the other major west side churches, Holy Cross, site of Mass Mob XV and Our Lady of Hope, site of Mass Mob XXVI. These three churches serve a very diverse community in a high-poverty area of the city, so they have a vital function and a vital role to play, and the prospect of any of them closing is troubling.
It also strikes me, although unaware of the details of the situation, as unnecessary. Just a few blocks away is a great model of a church mission, the former Our Lady of Loretto, which is now in use almost 24/7 as the Loretto Ministry Center. 716 Ministries, the former West Side Ministries, acquired the entire vacant church complex from the Diocese of Buffalo a decade ago and put it back to use serving the surrounding diverse community. Some of the complex was leased to other organizations needing low-cost, quality space to run programs in the neighborhood, which provided a funding stream to help rehab and operate the complex.
As a result of that expertise in subletting real estate and providing high-quality, low-cost space for ministry programs, 716 Ministries has helped other churches use excess real estate to support their ongoing programs and house vital ministries and services in their communities. The signature project for their model is First Church, just down the road from Holy Angels, where 716 Ministries (as I wrote here) oversaw the subleasing of excess space that helped the church ride out a period of severe financial strain. Could a similar model help prevent Holy Angels, with a seemingly large amount of excess real estate, from closing? It seems to me worth considering.
Sunday’s Buffalo Mass Mob will provide an ideal opportunity to experience Mass in one of the oldest Catholic churches in the city (history here), and hopefully not one of the last such opportunities.
Buffalo Mass Mob XXXVII at Holy Angels Church, last-minute details
Buffalo Mass Mob XXXVII at Holy Angels Church FB event
Holy Angels Church website
Note: The Buffalo Mass Mob was co-founded by Chris Byrd of Broadway-Fillmore Alive, Danielle Huber, Photographer Arthur Kogutowski, RaChaCha, and Greg Witul.