ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Parishioners at Rochester’s St. Michael's Catholic Church have formed an advocacy group and are trying to convince the Rochester Catholic Diocese to spare their church from closing.
It’s been said that 'it’s not the building that makes a church, it’s the people.'
"This building represents us," said Luis Aponte. "It represents the Latino community."
That community is now fighting to save the church.
"This building, the church represents so much more to this community," said Mercedes Vasquez-Simmons, one of the leaders of an effort to save St. Michael’s from closing.
Their pastor told the mostly Latino congregation over the weekend that the 130-year-old church was recommended for closure.
"Listen, the way that we feel is like you're served an eviction notice in your own home," said Bera Jurado. "Without any place to go."
St. Michael’s, which is in the Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini parish, has struggled financially in recent years as attendance has declined. Some say elderly relatives stopped attending over crime concerns in the neighborhood. Parishioners say they’ve offered to help raise money, but were turned away.
"It was almost as if the diocese and priests have given up hope," said Vasquez-Simmons. "But we haven’t."
If St. Michael’s closes, Rochester would be left with just two Spanish-speaking Catholic churches.
"What is next? We're gonna only have a church for the rich in Webster and Penfield only?" said Jurado. "What nonsense is this?"
The final decision will be left to the bishop of the Rochester diocese.
"We’re not giving up hope on this," said Vasquez-Simmons.