St. Lawrence Historical Photograph

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School History

Established 1924

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.

Our Patron Saint

San Lorenzo de Brindisi

St. Lawrence was born in Brindisi in the kingdom of Naples in Naples, Italy, on July 22, 1559 and was named Cesar de Rossi. He took the name of Lorenzo when he became a Franciscan Capuchin at the age of 16.

As a deacon, St. Lawrence of Brindisi became known for his powerful form of preaching and after his ordination surprised all of northern Italy with his amazing sermons. Because he could speak Hebrew, he worked for the conversion of the Jews who lived in Rome.

As a student at the University of Padua, Lawrence studied philosophy, theology and the Bible.

In 1596, he became a high-ranking superior in the order, and five years later was sent to Germany with Blessed Benedict of Urbino. They founded several priories throughout Europe. Lawrence also helped to raise an army to combat the Turks in Hungary, where he won a battle against them by leading the troops into battle with only a crucifix to protect himself.

In 1602, St. Lawrence became the master general of his order. He worked, preached and wrote to spread the Good News.

He went on important peace missions to Munich, Germany, and Madrid, Spain. The rulers of those places listened to him and the missions were successful. But St. Lawrence became very ill. He had been tired out by the hard traveling and the strain of his tasks. He died on his birthday, July 22, in 1619. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Leo XIII in 1881. He was honored as "apostolic doctor" by Pope John XXIII in 1959.