Whitney Pier, N.S. - Piled onto a bus bound for the home to diocese of Antigonish, Polish church-goers in Cape Breton set out on a pilgrimage with a purpose today.

The members of the congregation are still reeling from a diocese plan to close St. Mary's in July to consolidate the parish with another community church. The merge could spell the end of Atlantic Canada's only Polish parish just as its members are preparing to celebrate their centennial.

"If this church closes the Polish culture will die in Cape Breton," says Tom Ubraniak, the pilgrimage organizer.

Ubraniak says the pilgrimage draws attention to the church's fight to stay open- it's more of a plea.

"It's a way for the parish, prayfully and positively to say that it is vibrant and alive, and the Polish culture is alive in Cape Breton, and that this parish is the centre of Polish culture for all of Nova Scotia," says Ubraniak.

St. Mary's was founded nearly a century ago by Polish immigrants who moved to Cape Breton for jobs in the coal and steel industries. Some parishioners are fourth generation church-goers, including Joanne Wall.

"This is part of who I am. If I could not come to St. Mary's there would be apiece of me that would die," says Wall.

While the church is in good shape, both financially and structurally, the diocese says it can't continue to support all the parishes that are active in the Sydney area.

Even though the church's ultimate fate is out of his hands, its priest understands how parishioners feel.

"It's kind of similar I supposed to an old family home. If you lose your family home and everything that's in it, a family home is part of you. This parish is part of them," says Father Paul Murphy.

With a quick blessing of the buses and parishioners all aboard for their journey, it's a pilgrimage with a purpose beyond just saving a church. Members of St. Mary's say their culture is also at stake.

With files from CTV'S Randy MacDonald