NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Archdiocese of New York has a plan to merge 150 parishes in the new year.

That means this could be the final Christmas for dozens of local churches.

As WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported, it was a bittersweet Christmas at Church of Saint Thomas More.

The joy of the holiday was tempered by the fact the archdiocese wants to close the Upper East Side parish.

“Very, very sad,” said one parishioner. “This can’t happen, that would be terrible.”

“(The parish) is very special. It’s a very sweet, lovely manageable church which pays its own bills,” said another parishioner. “It sustains itself.”

Parishioners aren’t giving up without a fight, and neither is Father Kevin Rattigan.

“The main argument is that this is a very vital parish, a vibrant parish,” he said. “We have people coming from many places outside the neighborhood because there’s something special here.”

Parishioners at the Church of the Nativity on the Lower East Side faced the same feelings this Christmas Day as it too may be merged next year.

“Why cut down on smaller churches to become a bigger church when the community is right here?” parishioner Evelisse Santana questioned.

In response to the merger plans, Santana and Mercedes Sanchez are appealing to the Vatican, CBS2’s Matt Kozar reported.

“We are working together. We are being united, and thankfully we have a cannon lawyer who’s guiding us about what we should be doing legally,” Sanchez said.

The archdiocese says it’s closing 31 churches, including the Church of the Nativity, because of rising costs and a shortage of priests.

Also on the list is St. Elizabeth’s on the Upper East Side — the only church in the diocese that offers Mass in sign language for deaf parishioners.

Sanchez has now launched a social media campaign to help save her church.

“We have been speaking with a cannon lawyer who said that change in demographic and decline in priests are not valid reasons to close a church down,” she said.

So this Christmas, she and other parishioners have been praying to keep their house of worship.

The plan for merging parishes has to be submitted to Cardinal Timothy Dolan by March 1, Haskell reported.

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