Eye-popping headline aside, this is an interesting look at how one parish in New York City is reaching millennials:
A few years ago, Mark Ciolli was headed to Sunday Mass with a pal when they ran into two female acquaintances. “He invited them to Mass,” recalls Ciolli of his friend. “One girl said, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve heard about that Mass. That’s the sexy Mass.’ We just looked at each other and laughed.” While it may seem sacrilegious to say it, the 7 p.m. Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Nolita is as sexy as church gets. The always-packed service has been drawing attractive young professionals since Old St. Pat’s added the evening liturgy six years ago. “There’s a cachet of cool. A lot of people have remarked to me about it particularly being a good-looking Mass,” says Ciolli, 37, who works in admissions at Fordham but looks like he was plucked from a Ralph Lauren ad. “It’s a good-looking bunch,” says Ashley Marchetta, a 28-year-old congregant with a career in finance. “You know you are going to see people you might want to get to know.” In fact, she’s even dated some of her fellow churchgoers. “Beyond that, being able to be around people with like-minded values is refreshing,” Marchetta adds. While the archdiocese is shutting down Catholic churches all over the city, Old St. Patrick’s is thriving. In November, it celebrated its 200th anniversary with the unveiling of a $16 million restoration and a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Dolan. Boldface parishioners include Alec Baldwin, who married there in 2012, and comedian Jim Gaffigan. Martin Scorsese was an altar boy at the Basilica and Francis Ford Coppola used it as the backdrop for the baptism scene in “The Godfather.” One of its most notable distinctions is that 50 percent of the 800-strong congregation is between the ages of 18 to 34. Even converts are coming in. Ciolli teaches Old St. Pat’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program, which draws a robust 20 to 25 people each year — from lapsed Catholics to curious atheists. (“Seinfeld” and “Cheers” writer Tom Leopold converted from Judaism with Ciolli’s guidance.) Though much has been made of how Pope Francis’ more inclusive style speaks to a new generation, this particular overflowing Mass predates the popular pontiff.
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