St. Lawrence Catholic Church, Lawrenceville
Established June 17, 1974
St. Lawrence, the first Catholic mission in Gwinnett County, began in 1963 as a mission of Holy Cross parish in Chamblee. In celebration of the third anniversary of the founding, St. Lawrence’s 30 families offered Mass in their new center, a former appliance store converted to a sanctuary and classrooms entirely through their own handiwork, including the participation of the high school students who scraped and sanded the chairs.
In the coming years, Masses would be celebrated in the basement of a private home, a Presbyterian church, the chapel of a funeral home, and, from 1968 to 1973, in a storefront on a Lawrenceville back street. In 1972, St. Lawrence Mission and its mother parish of St. Patrick’s in Norcross were entrusted to the care of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales. In 1973, the mission, now grown to 173 families, constructed Gwinnett County’s first Catholic church building, seating 300 and accommodating 250 in religious education. The following year, the mission was raised to the status of a parish.
In 1987, the parish dedicated a new church built of wood and stucco in Spanish Mission style. The former church became classrooms and offices. In 1996, pastoral care of St. Lawrence was returned to priests of the Atlanta archdiocese, and in 2000 the parish dedicated a new education building with 24 classrooms and a gym.
The growth of buildings and numbers is only a reflection of St. Lawrence’s more profound growth as a family of faith. The parish’s worship, outreach to the poor, and community life have been blessed both by the sacrifices and dedication of its founders, and by newcomers from around the country and the world who have brought a richness and diversity of gifts to parish life.
During the 1990s, St. Lawrence assisted in the resettlement of refugees from Vietnam, Rwanda; and several other nations; in 1998 the growing number of Spanish-speaking Catholics in the area prompted the parish’s first Hispanic ministry, which has grown into twice weekly celebrations of the Eucharist, with a flourishing religious education program and other ministries in Spanish; in 1999, St. Lawrence twinned with the parish of St. Thomas d’Aquin in Thomassique, Haiti, an experience of Catholic solidarity that has blessed both communities richly.
As the Archdiocese of Atlanta celebrates its Golden Jubilee, St. Lawrence parish looks to the future, planning a major expansion of its church building and renovation of its hall and offices to serve a parish that now numbers 3,000 families—remembering the parish motto from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, “We, though many, are one body in Christ.”