San Pedro Spiritual Development Center’s beautiful property is nestled among 200+ acres of 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 in 1960. Therefore, the rustic dormitories and main hall were the first buildings constructed to accommodate as many as 160 campers at a time. From 1961-1962 San Pedro’s 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 expand San Pedro Center beyond just a summer camp and began creating a retreat space for spiritual growth and development. Six residential and meeting 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.