Parishioners at a Scituate church have until midnight Monday to leave after an eleven-and-a-half-year occupation of the church. They’ve been protesting the Catholic Archdiocese’s decision to close the parish.

On Sunday morning, Nancy Shilts stood just inside the door of St. Frances Cabrini church handing out flyers and hugs to parishioners as they arrive.

“It’s just like I just lost my house," she said, tearing up.

Shilts is one of the parishioners who have taken turns staying in St. Frances, day and night since 2004. That’s when the Archdiocese of Boston said they were shutting the church down to sell the land. Behind her, on a table in the church’s entryway is a series of cakes in the shapes of numbers - 4 2 3 4.

“4,234 days we’ve been vigiling here," Shilts explained.

Inside, Irene Murray sat in a pew. Her mother was part of the vigil before she passed away, so St. Frances means a lot to her.

"It means my mother, it means her passion, and remembering childhood, being here in the summer time for mass every weekend," she said.

Jon Rogers, who led the protest group, says they were always told the church belonged to parishioners.

“And with that responsibility of it being your church, you need to basically fill our collection plate so you can fix your roof, or you can fix the rugs. It’s always been our church,” he said.

So they pledged to exhaust every legal appeal they had, and they did just that. The Vatican ruled against them, and earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their case.

Now that they have to leave, they’re planning on continuing on as an independent parish somewhere else. For the last 11 and a half years, their services have been led by laypeople, without any priests.

“Well, as we move forward, we won’t be missing the clergy," Rogers said.

When asked how they could have clergy, if the church won't be associated with the diocese, Rogers just said "wait," with the smile of someone with a secret they can’t wait to share.

And as the service began, sure enough, three priests processed up the aisle. One of them introduced himself to the congregation as Father Terry McDonough.

“We are validly ordained Roman Catholic priests," he told the congregation."We are forbidden to minister to you, because we felt called by God to the sacrament of matrimony as well as priesthood.”  In other words, McDonough was kicked out of the Catholic priesthood after he got married 32 years ago. “Another irony," he added, "because one of the reasons for closing this church is a lack of priests. If you read the papers, watch television or go to movies, you know what the other reason is."

The clergy sex abuse scandal began here in Massachusetts, and involved St. Frances Cabrini, before it spread around the globe. The Diocese doesn’t acknowledge St. Frances was set to be sold because of the scandal, but settlements in those cases led to financial problems.

In a written statement, the archdiocese invited St. Frances parishioners to join other churches.

But as Jon Rogers addressed the congregation in this church for the last time, he remained defiant, and sounded hopeful about their future together, outside of the church hierarchy.

"And this is a new day, not a death," he said. "This is a birth of a new church. And a new way of thinking, and a new life. be glad in that. Be proud of it, because I know I’m proud of all of you. Thank you,” he said, to the applause of the congregation.

Next weekend the St. Frances parish will begin meeting in a Masonic lodge in town, as they start making plans and taking up a collection to build a new, independent, church of their own.