A “Taste of Watts” vendor’s row, health services information booths, and children’s activities including a petting zoo, rides and face painting is also planned. The free and open to the community celebration will take place on the streets bordering the church on Compton Avenue between 103rd Street and Century Boulevard.
The celebration concludes Sunday, Sept. 28 with a special mass hosted by Cardinal Roger Mahony at 10 a.m. outside the newly remodeled and freshly painted church.
The Cardinal’s backdrop will be images of diversity painted in 1999 by renowned muralist Miguel Ramirez who will also be in attendance. Images include Archbishop Romero, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, Pope John II, and Mother Teresa, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Saint Peter Claver, and various parishoners.
Founded as Holy Redeemer Church in 1908, the church was renamed in honor of the Franciscan Capuchin, Saint Lawrence of Brindisi, in 1922. In 1924, St. Lawrence Elementary School was created encouraging the youth of Watts to learn about Catholicism and education.
“Watts is a powerful community because I see struggling and suffering here, yet there is a great growth in the lay ministry, growth in education, and the African Americans and Latinos are working together in a close relationship,” observed Father Peter Banks, St. Lawrence’s Senior Pastor for the past 20 years.
Under the leadership of Father Banks, also known as Father Peter, and Father Jesus Vela, St. Lawrence has more than 3,000 families registered to the parish and provides mass in English and Spanish. The ministries range from Black and Brown Evangelization Ministry, Altar and Rosary Society, Baptismal Classes, and Eucharistic Ministers to Knights of Peter Claver/Ladies Auxiliary-Jr. Daughters, Mesa Hispania, Pastoral Council, Parajes (Couples), Prison Ministry, Religious Education for New Members, and Teen Outreach Youth Ministry.
Father Peter and the church’s involvement in the Watts community extends to the Gang Prevention Program, Friends of St. Lawrence Literacy Program, Mentoring Program, Free Legal Service Program, the Martin Luther King Shopping Center and the Wattstar Theatre and Education Center and more.