St. Michael's Church in West St. Paul prepares for last Mass - during the year of its 150th anniversary

Valerie Gerlich was helping plan the church’s sesquicentennial dinner in September when she got the news: St. Michael — a church nearly as old as the state of Minnesota — would be closing its doors. Its last mass will be celebrated Sunday.

The dinner became a modest luncheon — ham sandwiches in the gym — devoted to saying goodbye to a 150-year-old West St. Paul parish.

“It was devastating,” said Gerlich, a 20-year member of the parish. “The timing couldn’t have been worse.”

Church leaders say a depleted parish and dwindling contributions led them to the painful decision to close. Parishioners, some crestfallen or angry, are now scrambling for new places to worship.

It’s a familiar scene. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis called for a dramatic round of church closings and consolidations about five years ago. Things have stabilized since, and St. Michael is the only metro-area church to close this year.
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