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Parishioners: Historic St. Michael’s Church in danger of closing, would be major loss for Latino community

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A local Catholic church with over 130 years of history could be in danger of closing its doors, and the church has also been a central meeting place for Rochester’s Latino community for decades.

According to community activist Roberto Burgos, more than 90% of those who attend mass at St. Michael’s Church are Latino. He says if this closes, it will be a major loss for Rochester’s Spanish-speaking community who rely on this not just for worship, but as a central social gathering place. 

Burgos says the Diocese of Rochester has asked the parish, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, to consider closing either St. Michael’s, Our Lady of the Americas, or Annunciation. 

Burgos says it’s due to a large deficit at the parish, about $143,000. A cost he says is now lower due to parishioners stepping in and donating.

Burgos says does have higher bills than the other churches, which is why he feels this will be on the chopping block (even to heat in the winter is more than double that of the others).

Burgos says the diocese wants to close one of the churches by year’s end. Burgos is asking the Diocese to give this decision two more years so they come up with an action plan and raise money, so the question of closing any of these churches, especially St. Michael’s, will no longer be on the table. 

“There’s no good time to close a church. But I submit this is the worst time to close any church. We are in the middle of a pandemic. There are uncertainties. So I’m asking the Bishop, I’m asking the church to take a pause on closing this or any other churches. Right now, there’s so much uncertainty, there’s so much fear. Latinos are one of the groups disproportionately affected by the pandemic. This is time when we need our church,” says Burgos.

In a statement from the Diocese of Rochester Monday they said, “The Diocese met with parish officials from Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini in order to address significant financial challenges facing the parish.  The parish was asked to create a committee to study the feasibility of the parish and to develop a proposal concerning all churches and facilities in the parish. The Diocese is awaiting this plan and further information as the study continues.”

Burgos says we will have to wait and see what parishioners can do, and what the diocese ultimately decides come December.

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