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Centro San Juan Diego serves the Hispanic community through the pandemic and beyond

Overcoming the pandemic has definitely been one of the biggest challenges we’ve had to face in recent times, especially for those who have struggled and have not received the necessary support, both financially and emotionally. 

Nonetheless, many Denver residents have found hope: Centro San Juan Diego (CSJD), an Archdiocese of Denver ministry, committed to the support and the well-being of the Hispanic community through education, family support, integration, and leadership formation. Each year, Centro San Juan Diego serves more than 5,000 immigrants through different programs, and the COVID-19 pandemic was no exception. 

A survey conducted by the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) that explored the work of 189 Catholic institutions — in which CSJD participated — during the Trump administration and the COVID-19 pandemic found that the demand for Catholic institution’s services from the immigrant community had increased significantly, and that these institutions responded quickly with new services. 

For those who know Centro San Juan Diego, it’s not news that “Centro,” as it’s widely known locally, responded to the pandemic in a merciful way by continuing to offer services that range from ESL classes to legal services, and eventually the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine once it was made available to the public. 

Throughout the pandemic, Centro San Juan Diego, like many other Catholic institutions in the country, had to modify their in-person services to a virtual format, an adjustment that intimidated many immigrants who do not have access to a computer or don’t know how to use one.  

“At the beginning, many people wanted to wait for the return of in-person classes, but after several months, they realized that would not happen any time soon and they started to get on board as well,” said Erin Scherer, Programs Director at Centro San Juan Diego. 

The fact that many of its students were unfamiliar with technology was not an obstacle for CSJD. During these uncertain times, they trained students with basic computer skills and other services through different digital platforms.   

“It was a huge challenge to create a system, learn everything ourselves first, train the teachers and other volunteers, and call the students to help them one-by-one to download the Zoom app and explain how to use it…and all of this before many people even know what Zoom was!” Scherer explained. 

Though not without its challenges, Centro San Juan Diego continued to serve the immigrant Hispanic community in Denver through the pandemic, and their reach even extended beyond Denver thanks to the addition of online courses. As the fall gets underway, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer at Centro. (Photos provided)

Now that life is on the road to getting back to “normal,” Centro San Juan Diego continues to work hard, both virtually and in-person, offering different services, educating the community, and providing the tools people need to achieve their goals. These additional opportunities have encouraged more people across the state to take advantage of what Centro has to offer.   

“Now that we have classes online, we have students connecting in from the mountains to the eastern part of the state and from the north to the south!” Scherer said. 

The support of many volunteers who donate their time and talents is one of the reasons this Catholic institute has managed to get through the pandemic. Thus, CSJD encourages people to come forward and get out of their comfort zone, volunteering and serving the Lord through the gift of service.  

“One requirement [to be a volunteer] is to have an open heart with the desire to serve, and at the same time, to see the face of Christ in the students, to be willing to listen to their stories, learn from them, and be completely inspired by the perseverance, faith, and dedication that these people have to get ahead, achieve their dreams, and become better for their families, communities, and parishes,” Scherer concluded.  

Volunteer opportunities 

Centro San Juan Diego invites you to be part of their team of volunteers to serve others. Here are some volunteer opportunities and ways to support this ministry. 

Pray for Centro. 

Support CSJD by donating HERE. 

Volunteer for one of the following: 

English-as-a-Second Language 
Teach a course or serve as an assistant for the class. Spanish not required to teach or be an assistant for this class. 

Computer Literacy 
Teach a course or help as an assistant. Spanish required to teach or be an assistant for the class. 

Citizenship Preparation 
Teach a course or help as an assistant. Spanish not required for the English class. Spanish is required for the Spanish course. 

GED Preparation 
Teach a course or volunteer as a tutor. Spanish required as well as mastery of the subject area to teach or tutor these subjects. Previous teaching experience is also very much valued for this course. 

Financial Literacy 
Teach a topic in the financial literacy course. Spanish required. 

Legal Night 
Serve as an interpreter or offer pro-bono legal consultations. Interpreters must speak Spanish and English. If you speak another language, please let us know! Attorneys who practice any area of law are welcome to share their knowledge and provide orientation. 

Diálogo Entre Mamás 
Meet with a group of mothers online to listen and share experiences. If you have an area of expertise and would like to give a presentation, please let us know. Spanish is required. 

Familias Virtuosas 
Teach and accompany parents and/or teenagers in topics to help improve their relationship based on Catholic values. Spanish required, English helpful. 

Office Support 
Data entry. Supporting/Facilitating Zoom classes 

For more information visit: https://centrosanjuandiego.org/en/ 

Rocio Madera
Rocio is the Communications Specialist for both El Pueblo Católico and Denver Catholic.
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