San Pedro Spiritual Development Center (San Pedro Center) is located on 470 acres which includes beautiful properties nestled among protected Florida wetlands. Located on Lake Howell in Winter Park, the majority of the land was purchased in 1955 by Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley, Bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine. Archbishop Hurley had an uncanny ability to predict the growth patterns of the State of Florida. Nicknamed “ten-acre Joe,” Archbishop Hurley bought up key parcels of real estate all over the state with sites for future parishes in mind.
The San Pedro site was designated as a diocesan summer camp therefore rustic dorms and a main hall were built. The camp opened in 1960. In 1961-62 San Pedro camp was used for the temporary housing of Cuban children who were sent to Florida for safety by their parents during “Operation Pedro Pan,” the effort to assist unaccompanied minors fleeing Fidel Castro’s communist Cuba.
In the 1970’s, the second Bishop of Orlando, Thomas J. Grady, decided to make San Pedro a full center for retreats and spirituality. Six residential and meeting pod buildings were added to the site, plus an administration building. In 1979 Bishop Grady invited Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regular (T.O.R.), to be the pastoral staff for San Pedro. The Friars provide a living, praying religious community on the site.
In the 1990’s the lovely, Mary, Mother of God Chapel was completed. A beautiful and serenely landscaped priests’ cemetery is located behind the Chapel. In 2005 hurricanes destroyed part of the camp-side resulting in the building of a new dormitory building and a food service/meeting building. The old main hall was renovated and is in constant use.
San Pedro Center serves the people, priests and parishes of the Diocese of Orlando and is a place, set apart, for human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral development. It also welcomes other groups of all faiths.