For years now, Buffalo Mass Mob has used a grassroots social media campaign to draw many people, Catholic and otherwise, to the city's churches for Sunday Mass. Their latest destination - St. Lawrence Parish on Feb. 26 - also includes a fundraising campaign to help repair and replace the church's roof.
According to pastor Father Ronald Sajdak, St. Lawrence Church still has the original layer of roof singles that were installed in 1961. Although a few layers of roof were added since then, the original singles are contaminated with asbestos and the entire top is in need of repair.
Currently, the church building has a large blue tarp over its roof. It will cost the church nearly $95,000 to replace the roof, but the church itself has only raised about $25,000 of the expense. Funding from Upon This Rock, the diocesan capital campaign that began last year, is yet unavailable.
Christopher Byrd, an organizer with Buffalo Mass Mob, went over to St. Lawrence to take pictures of the church for publicity, and was struck by the condition of the roof.
"Just seeing the tarp on the roof really just struck a chord with me," Byrd said. "I read about the roof (fundraising) campaign and how it's stalled a bit. I talked to our group, and they said, 'Why don't we all try contributing.'"
The result is a GoFundMe campaign for St. Lawrence to raise money online. Buffalo Mass Mob originally set a modest campaign goal of $500, but that amount was exceeded in a day. The campaign has raised just over $3,000 thus far, and organizers plan to keep the GoFundMe page open until the church's Buffalo Mass Mob date of Feb. 26.
"I didn't want to get the church excited that we could come up with a lot of money," Byrd said of their modest campaign goal. "To have it go beyond that is amazing. One of the keys to this is to raise awareness of the roof."
St. Lawrence Church remains an essential neighborhood fixture in the East Side of Buffalo. The parish offers several ministries to help the nearby community, including a pantry that offers food to 500 families a month twice a week; a pediatric clinic developed with a private partnership that provides basic medical care and immunizations for children, even without insurance; immigration physicals supervised by a doctor at the clinic; and the NativityMiguel Middle School of Buffalo St. Monica campus that helps underserved girls.
"They have missions that they're trying to keep active in the community," Byrd said. "We're trying to take what we do normally a little further this time."
Now in its fourth year, Buffalo Mass Mob continues to draw crowds to the city churches they choose every two months. While Mass Mob has chosen a non-Catholic Church in the past, the response wasn't as great as it has been for Catholic parishes.
"The support that we've received from the Catholic and non-Catholic community has been amazing," Byrd said. "It's a great way to come to these (old) churches. It's not only the fellowship, but you can really feel the Holy Spirit there. It's an exciting Mass. The key is to raise awareness about these inner city parishes."
"We're delighted to hear that," Father Sajdak said of Mass Mob coming to the St. Lawrence community. "I was always under the impression that they visited more historic churches in the city. They said, 'We've done a lot of the historic buildings, and our commitment is to those who do ministry in the city.' We're looking forward to it."