The Art and Architecture of Juan Diego Catholic Schools

“Beauty is the pathway to God.” 

-Dr. Galey Colosimo

When stepping onto the campus of Juan Diego Catholic High School one thing becomes clear, this place isn’t like other schools. 

Whether it’s the inspired architecture and intentional design, the immaculate landscape, or numerous works of art, one immediately feels connected to the sacred–and that’s exactly what administrators were hoping for when the school opened its doors in 1999.

To mark the place as distinctly Catholic, administrators worked with architects and artists to create spaces that allowed students, parents, faculty, and visitors to pause, reflect, and contemplate the Divine.

They didn’t realize that they were creating a new tradition that would continue for the next quarter of a century and become one of the school’s legacies.

This page is dedicated to all of the sacred spaces on campus and the people who made them possible.

The Juan Diego Grotto

The Heart of the School

A bird’s eye view of the campus makes it clear: the Juan Diego grotto is at the very center of it all, and rightfully so since Juan Diego is our patron saint. 

In fact, this spiritual and artistic place of prominence was one of the few sacred spaces that was planned long before builders broke ground on the Skaggs Catholic Center. It portrays the famous apparition of the Virgin Mary, known as Our Lady of Guadalupe, to the Chichimec peasant, Juan Diego, whose birth name, Cuauhtlatoatzin, means “talking eagle.”

The school received its name after a months-long search in which the answer was revealed to Monsignor Fitzgerald one night in a flash of insight.

This was fitting, as Juan Diego’s qualities as a man reflect those the school wishes to impart on its students. Grace, humility, strength, enlightenment, dedication, virtue and a boundless love for God and neighbor.

The Art and Artist

Commissioned before the school opened, the bronze statues were completed by Michael Florin Dente, a Portland-based artist who was introduced to administrators through Fr. Nathan Zodrow, the former abbot of Mount Angel Abbey, and who would later teach art at Juan Diego.

Dente’s beautiful bronze installation of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe is surrounded by a stunning garden of roses. The garden, which consists of different varieties of roses, has been cultivated and cared for over the past 23 years by Sister Celine, who has served as a fourth grade teacher at St. John’s for just as long.

The Story of Juan Diego

Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego in Tepeyac, in the outskirts of Mexico City in 1531. She asked him to tell the Bishop to build a shrine there in her name, where she would pour out her grace upon all those who invoked her. Disbelieving, the Bishop demanded a sign that the apparition had indeed occurred. When Our Lady appeared once more to Juan Diego she instructed him to climb the hill and gather the roses blooming there. 

Though it was winter, Juan Diego obeyed and found beautiful roses in full bloom. He gathered the flowers and returned to Our Lady who carefully arranged them in his cloak, or tilma, and sent him on his way to the Bishop. When Juan Diego opened his tilma, the flowers, Castilian roses, which were native to the Bishop’s home in Spain, fell to the ground and revealed a striking image impressed in the cloth: that of the Blessed Mother.