St. Lawrence High School: Its protector
The story of the man called St Lawrence takes us back to the 3rd century A.D. to the City of Rome. Tradition offers glimpse of his rich personality and strength of character. In the early centuries of our modern era, the emperors of decadent Rome embodied the vices of the society of their time: nepotism, corruption and oppression of the poor. Little wonder that the Roman authorities mistrusted the educational and charitable activities of the Church. Its ministers and members were arrested and thrown into jail. In the year 257, the Pope was condemned to death. Shortly after, it was Lawrence's turn to be put on trial. Lawrence was a deacon or administrator, in charge of the distribution of the Church's revenues to the poor.
The Prefect of Rome, the highest official of the city, came to know of Lawrence's responsibility over the Church's treasury. Hoping to strike a good deal for himself by putting pressure on Lawrence he ordered him to hand over the Church's revenues, "because," he said, "the Emperor needs them for the maintenance of his armies." "I will show you a valuable part of the Church's riches," answered Lawrence, "give me a little time to make an inventory."
Lawrence went all over searching out in every hovel of Imperial Rome the small people and the poor, those whom he served. Three days later he led them in procession to the Roman official. "Here are the true riches of the Church," he said. On seeing that he was outdone and out of hatred for the man's religious faith, the Prefect ordered Lawrence to be put to death. Lawrence was stripped, his body stretched out and bound with chains on an iron grid over a slow fire. Many were present, rich and poor alike. They collected the martyr's remains and gave him an honourable burial. It was the 10th of August of the year 258 A.D.
The founder Father Lawrence Rodrigues S.J.(1895-1990)
Father Lawrence Rodrigues was born on August 10th, 1895. He was a Goan priest of the diocese of Daman who joined the Society of Jesus for Calcutta. His great years were at Boitakhana, where he ran the Little Flower Press, and the St Ann's School and Orphanage. He was a man of vision. He had a great capacity to raise funds and he knew how to use them profitably. His purchase of the land of St Lawrence High School was an example of his far sightedness. It was a part of his vision of building up a strong local church. So too was Dhyan Ashram - a place for spiritual retreats - and his efforts to buy land for Morning Star College, where candidates to the priesthood could be trained. After Boitakhana, he worked for many years in the villages of the 24 Parganas, in the South of Bengal. He spent many years in retirement in St Xavier's College, Calcutta, and died at the age of 94 on March 27th, 1990.
The origins of St Lawrence High School
(Quoted from an interview of the founder by Mr S.V. Raman.)
I was in charge of St John Chrysostom High School, at 146 Bow Bazaar Street. It was both a boarding and a day school. This was in the 1930s. But the place was congested. There was no playground. The ground floor of the school building was occupied by a printing press, on the first floor were the classrooms, the third floor was for the boarders. The only thing that could be done was to build another school. I came to know that St Xavier's College was selling a plot of land at Ballygunge. I approached the Rector, Father Roeland, who offered the plot for two lakhs. I went to Martin & Co. Martin himself was still there and took an active interest. His engineers prepared the plans. They said it would cost two lakhs. I said all right. Archbishop Perrier came to bless the school in January 1937. Fr Arimont was named Director of the school. That's how it began.
As a priest in my early thirties in Mapusa, Goa, I had a great desire of becoming a Jesuit. One day enjoying a walk with a friend of mine, I heard him saying: "What will you do when you become a Jesuit?" Just then we were facing the fortress hill of Aguada near Panjim. On top of that hill was a chapel in honour of St Lawrence the Martyr. The feast of St Lawrence on 10th August was celebrated solemnly with the firing of 21 guns and a procession to the bar formed by the monsoon sands across the river. Without a second thought I said, "If it does happen that I become a Jesuit, I will build a very big school in honour of St Lawrence."
I collected money through lotteries which were organized every Sunday at Boitakhana. There was a committee in charge. Lots of people used to come. Tickets were sold at 25 Paise or one Rupee. The first prize fetched sometimes up to Rs 3000. That was a lot of money those days. That's what made the lottery so attractive. It was easier then than now because there were no taxes attached to such activities. This is how I collected all the money required for the purchase of the land, the building and the furnishing of the school. Of course, the Little Flower Press also came to the rescue with its earnings.
Most of the residents of the boarding came from Dhaka, Padrishibpur, Chittagong and other places of the present Bangladesh. Increasingly also a good number came from various areas of the 24 Parganas District. The Boarding was reserved for Catholics only. The day school was open to all. In the Boitakhana days, however, there were relatively few non-Catholics. What the school has become now, is the result of the hard work of the teachers and fathers of St. Lawrence High School.