St. Michael’s Church has been a cornerstone in the city of Rochester’s North Clinton Avenue neighborhood for over a century.
The future of the historic church has come into question in recent years because of low attendance and financial troubles within the Roman Catholic diocese of Rochester.
In an attempt to save St. Michael's community members have submitted a plan to church and diocesan leadership to take over the campus. Now, they’re putting pressure on the diocese to make a decision.
The effort began earlier this year when a group of parishioners and other Catholics formed the St. Michael Society. In late November, they submitted a proposal seeking to assume financial responsibility of the church by operating as a nonprofit. The proposal includes a partnership with the Father Tracy Advocacy Center to use one of the main buildings as a multi-purpose community center.
They've been patiently waiting for a response. But several parishioners said that during Mass last weekend, the Rev. Mickey McGrath announced the church could be closing.
Attempts to reach McGrath were unsuccessful, and the diocese said a decision on whether St. Michael’s will close has not been made.
The uncertainty is upsetting to many people in Rochester’s Latino community who say the church has been significant in their lives.
Parishioner Roberto Burgos said he got married in St. Michael’s over 40 years ago and the church has been a part of his family's traditions for generations.
“We are ready, willing and able to assume that responsibility and take the burden off of the diocese," said Burgos. “We know that the diocese is in bankruptcy. We know that. But this community is committed to this sacred space.”
Carlos Garcia of St. Michael Society said the possibility that the church will close is troubling because they still have not heard from McGrath or Bishop Salvatore Matano on their proposal.
“Our basic message to the bishop has been and will be, 'Please help us help you,' ” said Garcia.
Rudy Rivera of Father Tracy Advocacy Center is adamant that they will be able to save the church. He admitted he's frustrated that they have not received a response from the diocese, and he hopes they will seriously consider their solution.
“By closing that church, you will bring harm to the spirit of the people of this area and most especially to the Latino community for which that is the house that guides many of us,” said Rivera.
A representative from the diocese said a Parish Strategic Planning Committee must submit its recommendation before any alternatives are considered.