NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)Pope Francis will visit a Catholic school this week whose church has long been closed. But a handful of faithful are still holding out hope for its reopening.

As WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported, Our Lady Queen of Angels in East Harlem has been shuttered since 2007, but Sunday Masses still go on outside.

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“In the beginning, there were a lot more people. Eight years, people have dwindled away and people have less hope that the church is ever going to be opened,” said Patricia Rodriguez, of East Harlem.

Rodriguez once led a sit-in at the church.

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“We were going to stay in there because, as long as somebody was in there worshipping, they couldn’t close it, in my mind,” she said.

Rodriguez was arrested. The charges were eventually dropped.

The story of Our Lady Queen of Angels mirrors a trend in the Northeast as the center of Catholic growth shifts west and south.

The pope will visit the adjacent school Thursday to highlight Catholic education.

Rodriguez hopes he also highlights what many Catholics view as a troubling trend.

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“It was vibrant when it was open,” she said of the church. “We took care of it, and we loved it, and we’re still there, and we have hope. And if anybody can do anything, he can.”