Fort Worth

San Mateo church can’t be sold or demolished for at least four months

Final mass at San Mateo

The parishioners at San Mateo Catholic Church celebrate the last mass in the building as the Diocese plans to close the church and demolish the building. (Special to the Star-Telegram/Andrew Buckley)
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The parishioners at San Mateo Catholic Church celebrate the last mass in the building as the Diocese plans to close the church and demolish the building. (Special to the Star-Telegram/Andrew Buckley)

The buildings that housed San Mateo Catholic Church are safe for now.

After obtaining a demolition permit on Nov. 14, the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth and the parishioners of the church signed an agreement that nothing will happen to the San Mateo property through March 15, 2017. The church buildings will remain intact and the property won’t be sold.

Church member Yolanda Hendon appealed the church’s closure to the Vatican through the Roman Catholic Church’s canon law. She also threatened to file for an injunction to prevent the sale of the property or the destruction of the buildings.

Appeals under canon law can take as long as a year to be resolved, said Philip Gray, a canon lawyer hired by Hendon and other parishioners.

The agreement, filed with the Tarrant County Clerk’s office Tuesday afternoon, says that Bishop Michael Olson “will not grant and will not permit anyone else acting on his behalf to grant any rights or options to purchase the Mission Real Property and/or the destruction or demolition of the Mission Property, during the term of this Agreement.”

Diocese spokesman Pat Svacina said the diocese has no intention of demolishing San Mateo at this point.

“We’re just going to make sure the building is safe and secure all of the belongings inside,” Svacina said.

On Wednesday, the diocese provided copies of the email between its contractor, Intercon Environmental, and the city of Fort Worth. In the email, the city confirmed the demolition permit had been withdrawn by the city. In the email to the city last Friday requesting the permit be withdrawn, the contractor said “some unforeseen issues have come up at this time, and we will resubmit at a later date.”

But Svacina said on Tuesday that “the demolition is null and void.”

Svacina said the agreement is a chance for both sides “to let things settle down” and that the bishop is encouraging all members of San Mateo to attend St. Patrick.

He also said that mass and other events will not return to San Mateo.

San Mateo dates back to the 1940s and has long been a fixture in the El TP neighborhood, between the Chisholm Trail Parkway and Interstate 30. Until a final Mass was held Sunday, San Mateo had operated as a church mission of St. Patrick Cathedral in downtown Fort Worth.

San Mateo’s closing was announced in a church bulletin on Sept. 8.

Parishioners have suggested that the diocese’s plan was to sell the church property to help with financial issues at St. Patrick Cathedral.

A financial report posted on the St. Patrick Cathedral website for the fiscal year that ended June 30 showed a total of loans and outstanding operating bills at $2.7 million. Revenue was $174,630 less than operating expenses, the report shows.

The Tarrant Appraisal District lists the market value of San Mateo at $1,350,649.

Even though San Mateo is considered a mission by the diocese, Gray said parishioners still have the right to challenge Olson’s decision.

“He never gave the people an opportunity to be heard on this — the diocese might dispute that — but the people must be heard,” Gray said last week.

Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @fwhanna

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