Our Parish History

In the early 1920s, leading Hispanic ladies presented Bishop Tihen with a petition asking for their own church staffed by the Theatine Fathers. From the beginning, Hispanics wanted their parish to be named Saint Cajetan. In May 1922, Bishop Tihen established Saint Cajetan Parish in Denver and arranged for a Theatine priest from Durango, Father Bartholomew Caldentey, to begin saying Masses for the Hispanic community in the basement of Saint Leo Church.

Within the first year, Saint Cajetan’s congregation rapidly outgrew the basement of Saint Leo Church. Father Caldentey decided to approach philanthropist, John K. Mullen, about using his old home in Auraria as a church site. In 1923, Mrs. Mullen donated their old home to Saint Cajetan Parish. The parish immediately moved out of Saint Leo’s basement and into the small house holding Masses, classes and meetings. The parish borrowed $15,000 for a new church and broke ground in October 1, 1924. By January 1925, the church basement was finished but the funds had been depleted. Thanks to a large donation by John K. Mullen, the 700-seat Spanish Colonial Revival church was consecrated on March 1, 1926 and the building was completed on March 21, 1926. Six Sisters of Saint Benedict from Atchison, Kansas opened Saint Cajetan School and convent in September 1935. Construction on the school and convent began and they were dedicated on June 29, 1937 and located at West 12th Avenue and Umatilla Street in Denver. This tiny mission chapel was served by the parish until it was washed away by the flood of 1965.

Saint Cajetan Parish continued to serve as the focus of Auraria’s Spanish-speaking community until 1973. The Denver Urban Renewal Authority began demolishing nearly all the neighborhood surrounding the parish to make way for a 169-acre Auraria Higher Education Center in 1970. Parishioners worked with preservationists to at least save the old church building. In 1970, Saint Cajetan Church was declared both a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places and the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission, thus ensuring that the church would be spared. Saint Cajetan School was closed in 1970.

In 1973, the construction of the Auraria Campus forced the parish to relocate and the parish school to be demolished. The original landmark church, the first Hispanic parish in Denver, became part of the Auraria new campus as Saint Cajetan Center and continues to serve as a multi-purpose auditorium for lectures, concerts, recitals and other community events. Saint Cajetan parish was relocated to southwest Denver and a new church was built in 1975 under the direction of two Theatine Priests: Rev. James Prohens, C.R. and Rev. Tomas Fraile, C.R., who served the parish together for 34 years. The late Father James Prohens served as pastor of the church until his death in 2007. The late Father Tomas Fraile served as pastor of the church for until his recent passing in 2014. Currently the parish is under the direction of two priests from The Archdiocese of Denver: Rev. Angel Perez-Lopez as Pastor, and his brother, Father Israel Perez-Lopez, as Parochial Vicar. St. Cajetan Church serves as National Parish for Hispanics.