In 1896, the cornerstone was laid for the first St. Lawrence Church and School. The hard working Germans who built St. Lawrence School wanted to give their children a good education and pass on their faith, providing for what their children were going to need both in this world and for eternal life.
More than 100 households, mainly from St. Boniface, and about 20 from St. Mary’s were our early parishioners attracted to employment at the Monon Railroad shop yards that moved from New Albany to Lafayette’s Linwood annex in 1895.
The Franciscan Fathers of the Province of St. John the Baptist of Cincinnati, Ohio were given the charge of founding the parish of St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr. It was decided to erect a building that would serve as chapel, school, and residence for teachers and pastors until the congregation could build a suitable rectory.
Our free parochial school, supported by a school society to which every parishioner belonged, opened in September 1896 with Franciscan Sisters teaching its eight grades. The number of parishioners continued to increase as the Monon Shops were completed. Additional property was purchased and a rectory was constructed and a house was purchased for the Sisters of St. Francis, who also served the parish as teachers. Efforts were made to provide for the religious instruction of the children living in rural areas.
Bishop Herman Alerding dedicated St. Lawrence Church on June 17, 1923. The Romanesque brick and stone church that seats 475 succeeded the 350-seating capacity church and school edifice that Bishop Joseph Rademacher dedicated on November 8, 1896.
St. Lawrence High School filled the 1896 structure from 1923 to 1928 until St. Francis High School for Girls opened behind St. Elizabeth Hospital. St. Lawrence continued to grow primarily as a working class parish with an emphasis on education. Our parochial school and athletic programs have flourished through the years. The Franciscan Friars and Sisters continued to serve our parish until 1991 and 1992, respectively and diocesan priests were assigned.
On March 23, 1996, the church interior was damaged by a Saturday evening fire. That Saturday, Mass was held in the gym while about 100 firemen extinguished the fire. It was a coincidence that the parish’s centennial occurred with St. Lawrence in our original building.
With 1,296 households of 3,747 persons, St. Lawrence Parish and School continues to grow and be a community committed to worship, education and social justice. More space for our students was created with an addition to our school and new pre-school in 2002. In 2005, the parish built a new social hall to create space for parishioner programs and events. Our parish is currently raising funds for a school expansion project to create more space in our school. Faithful to our past, St. Lawrence Parish lives with a vision for our future.
Over the past 117 years, thousands of families from a variety of ethnicities have passed through our church and school. While our campus looks very different from 1896, our goal is still the same. We are here to offer assistance to families who seek a Catholic education for their children for this world and eternity, while creating future leaders for our Church and nation. It is truly a noble mission that we continue to support.