FORT WORTH -- The faithful at San Mateo Catholic Church in Fort Worth knew that there was a plan to close their church, but they didn't know there was a plan to demolish it.
"It breaks my heart to be honest with you, because this is God's house," said Fred Flores.
Flores grew up in the church and is now leading an effort to keep its doors open. Since the bishop announced his decision to close San Mateo in September, they have been praying he'd change his mind and organizing through Facebook and media outreach.
"I think all of us have sat at different times in the pews and just cried," said Yoland Hendon, a longtime member. "It's the worst thing. It's just an awful, awful experience."
The last mass at San Mateo is scheduled for this coming Sunday, and this week, they learned there's already a permit to demolish the buildings on Lovell Avenue.
The church got its start in the neighborhood 70 years ago and has served the Fort Worth Hispanic community ever since, offering mass in Spanish.
It's located in an area that was once home to a large population of rail yard workers and their families, nestled just north of the tracks and south of I-30. The Diocese of Fort Worth says San Mateo is not a self-sustaining parish. It's a mission of St. Patrick Cathedral downtown, and as such can be closed.
They say mass attendance is down at San Mateo, and they will start offering a Spanish-language mass at St. Patrick starting Sunday, Sept. 27.
But San Mateo faithful believe it's all about money. The site is appraised at over $1.3 million.
"I think they want to take the church, sell it, and pay off the debt they have at St. Patrick's. That's the only logical thinking I've got," said Flores.
A Fort Worth Diocese spokesman said that the bishop's decision stands, and all options are on the table for the San Mateo property, including selling it, renting it or tearing it down. San Mateo members are outraged that the Diocese would consider tearing down the buildings while they are engaged in an appeal process.
They are organizing a final appeal to the Vatican with the help of Philip Gray, a Canon lawyer with the St. Joseph Foundation who helps congregations deal with disputes.
"I believe they have a strong case. It's one of the strongest cases because there's been no process," Gray said.
Gray said the distinction between a mission versus a parish is meaningless, and that it does not appear the Diocese followed procedures spelled out in Canon Law to close a church.
"From what I've seen, they've not been treated well," he said. "And I'm fearful over what effect this will have on the spiritual lives of the people of San Mateo."
San Mateo members say the communication from the Diocese has been lacking from the start, and while they're not giving up yet, the fight has tested their faith.
"I feel like we've been betrayed," said Hendon.
She says if San Mateo is truly closed for good, she'll find another church home. But she won't be attending St. Patrick.
"With this final insult, I'm done. I'm done," she said.