Published September 25, 2008
On Saturday, Aug. 9, members of St. Lawrence Church commemorated the 1750th anniversary of the martyrdom of their patron saint by looking back at the life and witness of the third-century Roman deacon and looking forward to the completion of their renovated church, parish hall and offices.
Nearly 400 parishioners donned commemorative hard hats and toured the church construction in progress. Small groups were guided through the construction site by the parish’s priests and deacons. As they waited their turn, parishioners were treated to an ice cream social by the parish’s welcoming committee.
The present renovation will enhance the mission design of the existing church building and increase seating from 450 to 900 to serve a parish that now numbers more than 3,000 households. Simultaneous construction will provide pastoral offices, parish hall, nursery, restrooms, vestry and meeting space surrounding an open-air courtyard.
The parish was assisted in developing its plans by Father David Stachurski, OFM Conv., and Jim Brodi of Ecclesia Liturgical Design, LLC. Stained glass and church furnishings were designed by Brother Martin Erspamer, OSB, of St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana.The project architect is CDH Partners, Inc. of Marietta.The builder is Lusk & Company, Inc. of Alpharetta.
On Sunday, Aug. 10, St. Lawrence’s feastday was celebrated at the parish’s Masses as a solemnity.
Lawrence, one of the seven deacons of the Church of Rome, was martyred Aug. 10 in the year 258 during the persecution of the emperor Valerian.
Tradition holds that, upon Lawrence’s arrest, the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the treasures of the Church. Lawrence returned not with chests of silver and gold, but with lepers, the lame, widows, orphans and other poor, about whom he declared, “These are the treasures of the Church of Jesus Christ.”
The prefect was outraged and condemned Lawrence to a slow, painful death. A large gridiron was placed over glowing coals, and Lawrence burned alive. It is said that his cheerfulness in suffering was so great that he encouraged the on-looking Christians by calling out to his executioners at one point, “I am done on this side; you can turn me over!”
It is said that the particularly gruesome nature of Lawrence’s torture and his heroic grace in death marked the beginning of the decline of idolatry in Rome, which came to an end after the conversion of the emperor Constantine in the following century. Lawrence has been one of the most venerated martyrs of the Roman Church since the fourth century.
On a pilgrimage to Italy in May led by St. Lawrence pastor Father Albert Jowdy, parishioners visited the Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside-the-Walls, built over the site of Lawrence’s burial, and prayed for their patron’s intercession at his tomb.
The pilgrims also brought home posters and other materials surrounding the 1750th Jubilee of St. Lawrence, which is being observed at the Basilica and throughout Rome with special devotion. The parish adapted the Roman basilica’s jubilee logo for their own celebration.
St. Lawrence was the first Catholic community in Gwinnett County, begun in 1963 as a mission of Holy Cross parish in Tucker. The church is located at 319 Grayson Highway in Lawrenceville.