1908, the year of the Wright Brothers, and the dawn of flight. The race to the North Pole. Henry Ford’s invention of the Model T. The Grand Canyon was designated a national monument. And in Watts, California, a special church was founded on Compton Avenue. Originally this church was named Most Holy Redeemer. In 1922, the order of Capuchin Franciscans came from Ireland and took charge of the parish. They renamed the parish, Saint Lawrence of Brindisi after a capuchin saint that was known for his intelligence, scholarly work, great preaching and miracles.
One of the first concerns of the new parish and the priests was education. With much hard work by the priests and the parishioners alike, some $40,000.00 was raised and Saint Lawrence of Brindisi Parish Catholic School was dedicated in 1924. The first school was a mission-style stucco building. The school was staffed by the Sisters of Notre Dame who came to California by train from Cleveland, Ohio. The school opened with 200 children but by 1960 had grown to more than 360 students. In 1962, the original school building was replaced with a safer, earthquake resistant, reinforced brick and concrete structure. In their free time, the men of the parish paved the schoolyard, and worked on the construction of a lunch pavilion.
Everything was going well for the school until the summer of 1965. Saint Lawrence was located only two blocks from where the famous Watts riots occurred. Many businesses were burned down and many families were relocated. As a result, the enrollment went down. Miraculously, nothing happened to the actual school or parish in the riots. Today it is a model for the archdiocese.
Saint Lawrence School has had great success in teaching children in Watts to persevere, be respectful, reach out to help others and above all to listen to the “good voice” as Father Peter has taught them. The school has several programs including technology, sports, day care, summer school, religious instruction, traditions and ceremonies, parent education, leadership teams, field trips and a strong standards based academic program. All of the faculty and staff are well trained with credentials and many with masters degrees. And every year, all of the hard work and the rich programs continue to pay off with students graduating and going on to some of the best Catholic schools in the archdiocese. Some of these schools include Notre Dame Academy, Verbum Dei, Loyola High School, Bishop Conaty, St. Mathias, Junipero Serra, St. John Bosco, Cathedral High School, Salesian High School, St. Anthony High School, St. Mary’s Academy, St. Josephs, UC Schools, Loyola Marymount and more.