Friars Minor Capuchin


St. Lawrence of Brindisi Church

Watts, CA

Fr. Jesus Vela, OFM, Cap., Pastor

Located in South Central Los Angeles CA. The friars have been ministering to the diverse African-American and Latino communities for a number of years. Working with a dedicated lay staff, there is a K-8 parish school, a food bank, and a number of parish organizations.


Fr. Jesus brings his 
8th Graders from Watts to
visit Old Mission Santa Ines
on May 16 for a retreat day.

The Last Walk of Jesus
Good Friday 2011

Vocation Day
February 20, 2011

History of the Capuchins in Watts

In 1922 the Irish provincial chapter received a request from Bishop Cantwell of Los Angeles-San Diego for the friars to come to his diocese. In that year, Bro. Joseph Fenelon was named superior of the Irish missions in America and he came to Los Angeles to open a house there. On the feast of the Holy Innocents, he formally took possession of the parish of Most Holy Redeemer in Watts. One of his first acts in his new charge in Southern California, which he described as a land of "perpetual sunshine and abnormal development," was to have the name of the church in Watts changed to Saint Lawrence of Brindisi.

Bro. Gabriel Harrington soon arrived in Los Angeles to assist Joseph in Watts. The financial condition of this parish was good, and the friars immediately sought to acquire two lots adjoining the church. This had to be done through an intermediary, as the owner was rather inimical to Catholics and wanted to charge an exorbitant price for his land. Anti-Catholicism was apparently not limited to Oregon.

One of the first concerns in Watts was to build a school. With much hard work by the friars and parishioners alike the necessary funds ($40,000) were raised, and the new school was dedicated by Bishop Cantwell on August 24, 1924. It was staffed by the School Sisters of Notre Dame of Cleveland, Ohio, beginning their long association with the Capuchins.

Watts from the beginning was an active parish, but the friars there were not only involved in parochial ministry. Most of the men who lived there in the early days also did mission work, preaching several missions each month in the Los Angeles area and beyond. In the last three months of 1923, for example, they gave 18 missions, in such places as Bakersfield and Sacramento as well as the L.A. area. They were very popular preachers and filled the churches where they gave missions.

The original area of St. Lawrence parish was rather large, and that area today is served by three parishes. In the early days, Watts was known for its cool breezes. It was separated from Los Angeles by orange groves, and in Watts itself there were many truck farms. On visitation there Peter Bowe wondered if Watts would ever be joined to L.A. It was eventually absorbed by it.

  Updated: October 25, 2011