By Jamie Leary

DENVER (CBS4) – A Denver church has filed an appeal to a decision by the Archdiocese of Denver to merge it with a larger church nearby. Since the 1940s, Our Lady of Visitation Mission has held regular masses. That came to a halt in April when it was closed after a merger with the Holy Trinity Parish, which owns the mission.

Our Lady of Visitation (file photo credit: CBS)

“The Archdiocese of Denver and Holy Trinity worked in good faith to find a compromise and solution that would allow the pastor of Holy Trinity Parish to best serve the interests of everyone in the Holy Trinity parish boundaries. This included at one point offering to hold a monthly mass at Our Lady of Visitation, a compromise that was rejected, ” said Archdiocese spokesman Mark Haas. “We will now follow the conditions set forth in the decree from the Vatican. The pastor and staff at Holy Trinity are working to re-open OLV as a subsidiary church sometime in early 2019.”

On Christmas Eve, members of Our Lady of Visitation knew they couldn’t hold mass inside so they held a celebration outside.

(credit: CBS)

“We want people to know that places like this still exist, that communities like this still exist. We love our historical roots and we’re going to work to keep them alive,” said longtime congregation member Sandra Garcia on Monday.

(file photo credit: Our Lady of Visitation Mission church)

Holy Trinity has said members of OLV are more than welcome to attend mass and have invited them to the pastoral and finance councils, which the Archdiocese says they have declined.

“A church is not a Starbucks. A church is not a McDonalds. You can’t just say we’re closing this corner so go to the next corner. Not with a church,” said Garcia.

The Archdiocese says the idea to merge OLV with Holy Trinity came from the former pastor of OLV, also a pastor at Holy Trinity. The pastor was giving mass at both churches and with limited people to help split the time, he found it the best solution. The Archdiocese agreed and received backing from the Vatican.

In a letter to the Archdiocese, the Vatican wrote in part:

Garcia says the church was taking nothing from the Archdiocese and believes, no matter how small, they should have the right to worship.

In October, OLV appealed the decision. Garcia says she hopes to hear more after the New Year.

“We just can’t give up hope and we know that the Vatican is listening to us. We know that we have the ear of Pope Francis,” she said.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Garcia says in the meantime they will continue to push for the agreed-upon two masses per year. The Archdiocese says this decision is up to Holy Trinity.

Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.

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