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.'

What You Need To Know

  • Community members are fighting to save St. Michael's Catholic Church in Rochester

  • Parishioners have formed an advocacy group in hopes of convincing the Rochester Catholic Diocese to spare their church

  • If it closes, Rochester would be left with just two Spanish-speaking Catholic churches

  • St. Michael’s has struggled financially in recent years as attendance has declined

"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.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester issued a statement:

"Recently, some media has reported that Saint Michael’s Church “is slated to close.” This is incomplete.  

Saint Michael’s Church is one worship site together with two other churches, namely Our Lady of the Americas (formerly Corpus Christi Church) and Annunciation, which comprise Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish. For years, the parish as a whole has been experiencing declining attendance, serious financial difficulties, accompanied by major structural and required safety repairs needed, most significantly at Saint Michael’s Church.

In view of the above, a Parish Strategic Planning Committee was formed earlier this year to assess the parish’s spiritual, pastoral, sacramental and physical needs and to determine the best path forward to maintain a vibrant Catholic presence in this community.  The Committee is composed of the pastor and parochial vicar, parish staff and parish leadership, as well as parishioners from each of the three worship sites comprising Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish.  Our Diocesan offices were and are available to assist the parish in this process.

The Parish Strategic Planning Committee upon completion of this study will submit its recommendation to the Bishop. In accordance with the canonical process set forth in the Code of Canon Law, the Bishop will then review the recommendation of the Parish Strategic Planning Committee before a final decision is made.  

It should be noted that the Parish Strategic Planning Committee’s recommendation will come from the parish, after the Committee’s work and consultations.  

In sum, this matter is still in process."