ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — St. Michael’s Church on North Clinton Avenue has a deep-rooted history in our community, but after years of declining attendance, financial difficulties, and structural issues, it’s now in danger of closing.

The church community, largely a Latino one, has formed two different groups — both fighting to save the building. One of those groups, Saint Michael Society, said on Wednesday Fr. Mickey McGrath, Pastor of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish, has plans to permanently close the church. They say the formally announced the closure this past Sunday.

But the Diocese of Rochester says no decision has been reached.

“By closing that church you are bringing harm to the people of this area,” said Rudy Rivera, a parishioner and member of Saint Michael Society. Rivera is one parishioner who says the church represents a safe haven for the community.

This group proposed a plan that has been sitting on the pastor’s desk since November 22, they say. There’s been no response or discussion from the pastor on the suggestions they’ve raised for saving the church, saving attendance and raising funds.

“Instead of following Canon Law and working with us to implement the plan, unfortunately Fr. McGrath has attempted to close the church,” said Carlos Garcia, a parishioner.

Another parishioner, Bera Jurado, helped organize a separate press conference earlier this week. That group, Keep St. Michael’s Open, is asking the diocese to look into emergency COVID money to keep it open, something they say has not been approved by the board.

“I don’t know if it has anything to do with diocese bankruptcy in June or July,” he said. The Diocese responded to this statement saying the situation at the parish has struggled financially long before the diocesan filing, making it unrelated.

“It’s like we’re being evicted where do we go?” he said. Jurado says he does not know where some parishioners heard the church is closing for good, and says they’re rumors.

Full statement from The Diocese:

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.

Wednesday night the Diocese added this to the statement:

Before any alternatives are reviewed, the canonical process must be followed and the recommendations from the parish received.

The Diocese says they’re still awaiting the Committee’s recommendations and did not precede their study with specific suggestions or mandates about eventual findings. The recommendations will be the work of the parish Committee.  

There are two other churches nearby for Spanish speaking residents, but parishioners say St. Michaels is the largest.