Former parishioners hold makeshift service, pray to save San Mateo Catholic Church
The chatter started Friday night on social media that the long-awaited news regarding the closed San Mateo Catholic Church had finally arrived.
In a meeting room at the Pulido’s Mexican restaurant that sits next door to the fenced-off church, members filed in to hear the news.
On Facebook, the post simply said “WE WON!”
But the excitement was quickly tempered by the fact that there were two dramatically different interpretations of what the Vatican had decreed in an August 6 letter.
The church members canon lawyer, Philip Gray, said it was good news even if the Vatican appeal appeared to say otherwise.
“The decree says you lost but in reality you won round one,” Gray said.
Pat Svacina, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, said nothing has changed.
“Based on the latest communication the diocese and the bishop have received from the Vatican, the decree stands,” Svacina said.
San Mateo members learned of the closure in a September 2016 church bulletin.
The diocese referred to dwindling mass attendance as one reason for the closure in November 2016.
San Mateo had served as a linchpin for what was once a working-class Hispanic neighborhood that is rapidly changing. The empty church is now surrounded by hotels, medical offices and the Chisholm Trail Parkway.
Since its closure, the church has been surrounded by a chain-link fence. Still, vandals have damaged the air-conditioning units and stripped some of the exterior copper wiring outside the church, Svacina said.
Gray said the Vatican decree noted that Bishop Michael Olson had acknowledged the church had been dedicated on March 1, 1998, meaning it was subject to certain rules before it could be closed.
The decree said “mass will be celebrated on anniversary of the dedication of the church as well as its patronal feast day.” Gray said that was an indication that the church should not be permanently closed.
Still, church members are taking no chances. The parishioner who filed the original petition on behalf of the entire congregation, Yolanda Hendon, is appealing the ruling. Gray also urged church members to write letters to Olson.
“He needs to know there are 600 people that want that church open,” Gray said.