ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Our Lady of Visitation Catholic Church is fighting back against the Archdiocese of Denver’s orders to shut the church down.
Pierre Lopez, President of Our Lady of Visitation, has been attending the church for 57 years.
“(Archdiocese leaders) came down and told us that they would be closing Our Lady of Visitation due to a shortage of priests in the state of Colorado,” Lopez said. “We all started crying. People were mad. They were furious.”
The church was started in the 1940s to meet the needs of local farm workers.
“There’s been a lot of hard work, sweat, and tears,” Lopez told CBS4’s Andrea Flores.
Lopez says the church eventually grew to its current size of about 150 parishioners attending mass every Sunday.
Lopez says the land Our Lady of Visitation sits on is worth $2 million.
“It’s not about the shortage of priests, I think it’s more about the money,” Lopez said.
While Lopez says the church found four retired priests willing to say mass, he says the archdiocese denied their request.
The archdiocese released the following statement:
“Our Lady of Visitation has been a mission since it was first established in the 1940s to serve farm workers in the area. The mission has been part of the larger Holy Trinity Parish community and under that pastor’s administration since 1957. Over the last five decades, the demographics of the area have changed dramatically and there are now just under 90 people registered at Our Lady of Visitation, with only 19 of those people residing in the parish’s territory.
The pastor has decided to cease offering mass at Our Lady of Visitation on May 1, 2017, and to ask the faithful to begin attending Mass at Holy Trinity Parish. Since Holy Trinity is 1.8 miles away, has 3,000 parishioners and offers six masses each Sunday (two of them in Spanish), the pastor and the archdiocese are asking the members of Visitation to become part of the larger community at Holy Trinity.
The decision about when and where to offer mass is always made by the local pastor, who consulted with the pastoral committee, finance council, the archdiocesan presbyteral council, and Archbishop Aquila, before making this decision. Likewise, how to best use the facilities at Our Lady of Visitation is a decision that will be made by the pastor in consultation with Holy Trinity’s pastoral council and representatives of the mission.”
As Our Lady of Visitation prepares for the final mass on April 30, the church is praying for one small miracle.
“There’s always hope,” Lopez said.
The Our Lady of Visitation parishioners plan to protest at the Archdiocese of Denver after the final mass.