Reported by Robyn Gillam

As reported in the last issue of The Breezes, a town hall meeting was held at St. Lawrence in February to discuss its future in light of the Catholic Diocese of Hamilton’s study of the viability of some smaller downtown parishes. The high attendance and intense discussion that took place at that event highlights the deep connections of St. Lawrence with its parishioners as well as the North End as a whole.

The beautiful red brick church building with its bell tower and memorial garden is a North End landmark and its social and outreach activities play not only a central role in the lives of its members but in the continuing vitality of the neighbourhood. Many of its parishioners are from families who have been here since the beginnings of the North End in the mid 19th century. Who better to present their community history than the parishioners themselves?  Here it is in their  own words:

“St. Lawrence church was built in 1890 under the direction of Bishop Dowling on the site called Bayside Hill, also known as St. Lawrence Ward, at the cost of less than $2000. It was built in less than eight months. The official opening of the church was held on November 23 at 10am. It was the third Catholic church in the city of Hamilton and the only one built with a hall for community involvement.

“The hall has provided a place for the community to get together, with amenities such as a gym, bowling alley and a stage for plays and concerts. It is also used for parish dinners, dances, bingo, turkey rolls, the Nibble and Bids auction and penny sales. The parish has also been involved in the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Holy Name Society Men’s Club, Catholic Women’s League (CWL), Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), bowling leagues and, from 1944 till 1999,  a credit union to help parishioners. The hall was used by the Bennetto School students after the school fire in 1965, until a new school was built.  The hall was used each Wednesday from November to March for the Out of the Cold program. The bingo was moved to a bigger location in 1974 and is still active today in maintaining the church.

“The Turkey Roll, as we know it today, started in 1964 and has been an annual event in our community ever since. With the help of parish committee and volunteers, it has brought new and old parishioners and North Enders together. The parish has always maintained a working relationship with our own Catholic Separate School in preparation of the Sacraments such as First Communion, Confirmation, and religious programs. St. Lawrence’s also has an excellent literacy program for the children in the parish every week.

“Over the years donations from our faithful parishioners and other donors have helped greatly to cover parish needs and maintenance. We hope, with help from our parish priest, committees and parish organizations to keep the parish alive for many years to come!!!”

It’s clear that St. Lawrence parish’s charitable and social activities play a vital role in our neighbourhood. Let’s give it our continuing support.