Centro San Juan Diego is located at 2830 Lawrence Street in one of Denver’s oldest neighborhoods. The building dates back to 1890 and formerly housed Sacred Heart School. It is listed in the Colorado State Registry of the Historical Society for its beautiful and distinctive architecture.
In 1882, six Sisters of Charity, Cincinnati, Ohio, arrived in Denver to teach school at Sacred Heart parish in the basement of the church. The school was under the direction of the Jesuit Fathers with Rev. John Guida S.J. as pastor. The school grew very popular and the enrollment increased rapidly. Father Guida obtained a loan from his Jesuit congregation in Europe to build the school and a convent next door at a cost of $52,000. In 1989 the building was erected. The school building was far in advance of the times, having modern class rooms and a magnificent auditorium with an open rotunda with a gorgeous ornate pine rail system that borders the upstairs hall. In February 2, 1890, Bishop Matz solemnly blessed and dedicated the two-story brick Sacred Heart School building. More than 500 pupils were instructed the first year. The first graduating classes were tenth grade students. In 1894 High school course was added. In 1908 two additional classrooms were added, making a total of ten. After the high school closed in 1939, the school became a grade school until it closed in 1979. The school was used as parish center for Sacred Heart church before closing for the last time.
For years the school sat empty becoming a place for storage and home to many pigeons who found their way into the large classrooms. Rev. Marcus Medrano, pastor of Sacred Heart and alumnus of the Sacred Heart School, refused to sell the building to developers who offered him substantial sums of money. His foresight paid off when the need for a permanent home for the office of Hispanic Ministry arose.
The Archdiocese of Denver decided to renovate the old school building to create Centro San Juan Diego, the Hispanic Institute for Family and Pastoral Care. Renovation of the first floor started in 2002 and opened its doors on July 12, 2003 with the dedication and blessing by Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput O.F.M. Cap., assisted by then Bishop José Gomez, his auxiliary and chair of Centro San Juan Diego. Key Hispanic leaders that helped immensely in the creation of Centro San Juan Diego were Mr. Ron Montoya, Dr. Delio Tamayo and Ms. Polly Baca. In 2004 Bienestar Family Services, founded by Sr. Alicia Cuarón, O.S.F. Ed.D., became part of Centro San Juan Diego. The last phase of the renovation concluded in October 2007.
After more than three years of renovation, the building is able to offer: