MONONGAHELA (KDKA) – A group of parishioners staged a sit-in Saturday to protest the closure of their church.

St. Anthony Catholic Church in Monongahela’s final Mass was held Saturday at 4 p.m., but a group of more than 35 parishioners refused to leave when it ended.

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The decision to close the church was made over a month ago.

The group of parishioners was free to stay as long as they wanted, but security guards would not allow additional supplies to be delivered.

On Sunday, the final parishioners left the church around noon. However, there was a heated exchange between parishioners and a priest at one point.

A prayer service was held Sunday night outside of the church, which is now officially closed.

“The faith and the love that everybody has for this community hear. Everybody stayed, we stand together. Whether we’re this religion or – we live here. This is our family,” Deb Varner said.

The group is planning to continue their fight and they are looking into hiring an attorney to have their case heard at the Vatican.

“The Vatican simply looks at whether you’ve done everything according to the law, according to the procedures. If you’ve done everything according to procedure then they’re going to uphold the bishop,” Fr. Ron Lengwin said.

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In 2011, the Diocese merged St. Anthony and Transfiguration parishes into one parish, renaming it St. Damien of Molokai, which is only a few blocks away.

Bishop David Zubik spoke with KDKA’s Larry Richert and John Shumway to discuss the closing of the church.

“The people that are opposed is relatively small,” Zubik said.

He adds a decision had to be made to close the church because of population decline in Monongahela and decreased attendance.

“[I am] really sad to see the action that was taken and I certainly hope those folks, [protestors] will come around,” Zubik said.

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