ADAMS COUNTY, Colo -- When the Denver Archdiocese suddenly closed Our Lady of Visitation parish last April, church members were not happy.
They appealed to a higher power.
Last week, the former parishioners, now members of the Goat Hill Catholic Society, received a letter from the Vatican, telling them the matter "was of grave concern."
"I was shaking when I opened the letter," said Sandi Garcia, the society's chair.
When asked if the letter means they'll get their parish back, Garcia replied, "It's anything but a foregone conclusion, but this signals to us, and hopefully to the Archdiocese, that we are in this for the long haul."
Last year, an Archdiocesan spokeswoman told Denver7 that Our Lady of Visitation was a mission, or satellite of the much larger Holy Trinity Church.
She said Holy Trinity's parish priest made the decision to close OLV, so he could concentrate more on the main parish, which has 3,000 members.
The tiny church got its start when Hispanics began moving into the area in the 30's and 40's.
"Father Trudell, a missionary, came out from Denver, riding the tramway and then walking the rest of the way to conduct mass in people's homes," she said.
Eventually there were enough families to start their own church.
Garcia said the church had its humble beginnings in a street car.
"The congregation grew and that car wasn't big enough," she said, "so parishioners raffled off a prize-winning hog to buy a second street car, put them together, and constructed a portico to the front, and had their first chapel."
She said the small church prospered, and that when the Archdiocese closed Our Lady of Visitation, the mission had $250,000 in its bank account.
Some parishioners question whether that money was at the root of the closure.
They say the church's property has grown in value because of its proximity to light rail and other developments.
Denver7 reached out to the Archdiocese for reaction to the letter from the Vatican.
A spokesman sent this statement in reply:
"The Archdiocese of Denver has been informed that the Vatican has accepted the petition of some concerned parishioners of Holy Trinity Parish regarding the cessation of Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Visitation."
Since it accepted the petition, the Vatican has asked the Archdiocese to provide more information . The Archdiocese believes that the facts in this case will show that it acted properly, having in mind pastoral care of those concerned and the whole people of God."
The Goat Hill Catholic Society will hold a fundraiser, July 28, at the American Legion in Commerce City.
The Rudy Bustos Band will perform.
For more information about the group and its efforts to reopen Our Lady of Visitation Church, click on this link: