Centennial

My dear friends, 

A century ago, Catholics started settling in what would become this beautiful city of Coral Gables. They needed a place to educate their children, and the Sisters of St. Joseph opened up a school. They needed a house of worship, and the new pastor built a temporary church that soon after could not accommodate the growing number of people coming to Sunday Mass. Our founding parishioners overcame generational obstacles like the Great Hurricane of 1926, the Great Depression, and the Second World War. Yet, despite these herculean challenges that affected an entire nation, they were steadfast in building the magnificent church we have today and expanding our school to meet the need for Catholic education. They left us the legacy of the most majestic church in the Archdiocese of Miami and the timeless school where our children have gathered to be students of St. Theresa or receive formation in our Religious Education program.  

Now the time has come for us to build on our legacy to maintain and expand for future generations. As we approach the Centennial of our Parish and School, we look to the future and what we will leave to our children and grandchildren. The time has come to expand our school and erect the first building in 70 years by constructing a Multi-Purpose Center that will house a gymnasium, a stage, our administrative offices, a secure entrance to our school, and more classrooms to house our students. In our church, it is time to install a pipe organ befitting this magnificent temple where so many have received their sacraments. It is time to prepare the church for the next generation by installing new solid wood pews, restoring our glorious reredos and sanctuary to their original splendor, and repainting the inside of our church. It is time to build on our legacy! 

We need to embrace the evangelical ambition of our founders in order to accomplish these grand projects for our Centennial. We need to sacrifice our time, talent, and treasure as they did. As you browse through these pages and find inspiration in these projects, I invite you to make a sacrificial gift to our Centennial Campaign. Please pray about and consider making a three-year pledge so that we can leave the next generation of Church of the Little Flower parishioners and St. Theresa students the same gift our founders left us. Join us in building on our legacy as we celebrate our past and now look forward to our future! 

May God bless your generosity, 

O Lord God Almighty, by sending Your only Son to establish
the One True Church through the power of the Holy Spirit,
you gave humanity a sanctuary from the world.

We humbly implore your blessing upon
the Church of the Little Flower and St. Theresa Catholic School
as we observe our Centennial.

Through the intercession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel,
Saint Joseph, and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux,
bestow perpetual growth on our parish family
as we take refuge in your infinite grace.

Enlighten us to learn from our past
as we build on the legacy of our founding parishioners,
and help us to look to the future so that we may persist
in the work of spreading the Gospel.

Fill us with gratitude in this Year of Jubilee as we live secure
in the certain hope that you will be with us forever.

We ask this through Christ the Lord. Amen.

As we prepare to celebrate the Centennial of our beloved parish church and school, it’s important to first honor our past, recognizing the firm foundation upon which we stand today. The legacy of our founding parishioners is one we are deeply proud of and as we look ahead ready to build upon it, let’s take a look back to how it all began!

1925: St. Joseph’s Academy, which will later become St. Theresa Catholic School, is founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine, FL.

Pictured: The original school building as it appeared in 1925, which still stands intact today despite suffering considerable damage during the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926.

1926-1927: Church of the Little Flower parish is established and a temporary church is built and dedicated.

But that’s not our church! Pictured is an excerpt from the December 7, 1927 issue of Miami Daily News and Metropolis, showing Comber Hall as it appeared when it was erected. First built as a temporary church in 1926, Comber Hall was actually our parish’s primary place of worship for 25 years, until the proper church which we enjoy today was built in 1951, following the original plans and design laid out by Msgr. Comber.

Fun Facts:

  • St. Joseph Academy was built at a total cost of $150,000 and construction was completed in the fall of 1925.
  • St. Joseph Academy first opened its doors on Sept 15, 1925.
  • St. Joseph Academy jointly graduated its first class of 8th graders and high school seniors in May,1926.
  • At Msgr. Comber’s arrival to COTLF in October 1926, the parish consisted of 220 Catholic men and women.
  • Comber Hall was built at a total cost of $75,000 and was completed in 7 months, from June to December, 1927.
  • COTLF’s first Confirmation was celebrated at the church’s formal dedication, presided by Bishop Barry in Jan, 1928.
  • St. Joseph Academy was renamed St. Theresa School in 1932, when it become the parochial school of COTLF.

1951: As the parish celebrated its Silver Jubilee, construction of the permanent church began.

Pictured: Pre-construction rendering of the “new” Church of the Little Flower, which was built according to the original design envisioned by Msgr. Comber 25 years earlier. Construction began in April of 1951  and was completed at a total cost of $628,000. The church was officially dedicated on December 8, 1952, at a Solemn High Mass presided by Bishop Joseph P. Hurley of St. Augustine.

1960s: Responding to the rapid growth of the parish brought on by the influx of Cuban refugees, a balcony was added to the church to increase seating capacity. The “new” building was also constructed at Saint Theresa School, adding 10 new classrooms on campus.

1977: Adjusting to the liturgical requirements created by the Second Vatican Council, a new marble altar was commissioned (at left). It is the same altar that still adorns our sanctuary today.

1989: The last major work was done to the church with the addition of new marble floors, new pews, new doors, and opaque windows to highlight the decorative grills. Comber Hall was also renovated as the parish hall/reception venue that it is today.

These years also saw major changes at Saint Theresa School, with the construction of a new library, the acquisition and renovation of the Carmelite Sister’s new convent at the McShane House, and the conversion of the former convent into the parish office center, still presently in use.

Fun Facts:

  • Fr. Ronald Beaton was COTLF’s first priestly vocation, ordained in 1942.
  • The first black priest from the State of Florida also hailed from COTLF: Fr. Curtis Washington, ordained in June 1949 in Mississippi.
  • The explosive growth of the parish and region led to the creation of several new parishes: St. Michael (1947), St. Brendan (1953), Immaculata Academy & Columbus High (1958), St. Hugh & St. Thomas (1959), and St Augustine & St. Raymond (1969).

Though the past 30 years have seen much less prominent repairs and renovations to our physical spaces as we care for near-100-year-old buildings, they have been marked by an interior renewal and the flourishing of the ministerial, spiritual, and sacramental life of the church and school. Though difficult to capture in photos and brief snippets, these faith formation and ministry initiatives have led to some notable projects that have been recently completed around our campus:

2015: A new St. Therese Prayer Garden/Grotto is completed with a hidden “easter egg” nod to the past.

As the original St. Joseph Prayer Garden had fallen into disrepair and become inaccessible and overgrown with weeds, plans were drawn up for a new outdoor prayer garden dedicated to St. Therese. The existing statue of St. Joseph from old garden was salvaged and placed on the rear side of the new prayer space as a nod to the school’s founding under his patronage.

2019: St. Theresa School Alumni Plaza is completed.

As part of the school’s celebration of 95 years of service, the area surrounding the statue of our Blessed Mother in the “blacktop” outdoor gathering space was re-imagined at the St. Theresa School Alumni Plaza, a place to gather and share memories, friendship, and community, featuring personalized bricks and benches honoring STS alums and alumni families.

2021: St. Joseph Adoration Chapel becomes available 24-7.

Inspired by the overwhelmingly positive response to the October 2021 special presentation on Blessed Carlo Acutis and Eucharistic Miracles from around the world, the parish moved up the timeline to make the Adoration Chapel available 24/7. With a new private entrance and automated controls, parishioners can — and do — spend time with our Lord, present in the Blessed Sacrament, at all times of the day. The last 2-3 years have seen a major renewal in parish efforts to cultivate a love for the Eucharist and it is not uncommon to see the chapel lights turned on at 2:00am or 3:00am on a regular basis, as a steady stream of adorers passes by all day!

Fun Facts:

  • Since the virtual Adoration Chapel Visitor Log went live in April 2021, over 2,000 individual entries have been submitted with special prayer requests and messages and notes of praise and thanksgiving.
  • In 2022, COTLF celebrated 308 Baptisms, 178 First Communions, 164 Confirmations, and 114 weddings, highlighting the rich sacramental life of the parish. Additionally, almost 1,200 regularly scheduled Masses are celebrated each year, hundreds of hours of confessions are heard, and countless pre-scheduled or emergency sick calls are made to parishioner’s homes or local hospitals for anointing of the sick.
  • Last year, our beloved STS Musketeer was finally given a name: Louis! He is named in honor of St. Therese’s father, St. Louis Martin. Louis also came to life at the 2023 Parish Fair, as the school was gifted a Musketeer mascot costume.

One of the oldest buildings on the property, Comber Hall has served as a church, school gymnasium, retreat space, and reception hall since its construction in 1926. Though well maintained, the almost-100-year-old building is still in need of regular attention. For our centennial celebration, Comber Hall will receive a fresh coat of exterior paint, matching it to the rest of our campus buildings, which were all re-painted within the past decade.

After 75 years of regular worship and maintenance, the interior of the church is beginning to show signs of wear and tear. From wall repair patches and faded or chipping paint to the accumulation of dust, incense residue, and old candle soot, the church interior is in need of a subtle touch-up as we prepare to celebrate our Centennial.

As we honor the vision of our founding parishioners and the legacy that has been entrusted to our care, we have 3 major goals for our interior restoration:

1 – A minor adjustment of interior paint colors.

  • Without significantly departing from the current look of our beautiful church, a contrasting color palette between the walls and the major columns will better highlight and accentuate the historic art and architecture of the church, particularly our signature reredos behind the altar, our stained-glass windows, and the images of the saints around our church.
  • A new decorative band along the ceiling joint of the transept, as well as minor painted accents at the base of the dome, will more naturally draw the worshipper’s eyes up to our magnificent dome and then back down to the reredos and specifically to the tabernacle and Christ’s presence inside our church.

2 – The restoration of the Reredos.

  • A combination of deep cleaning and paint/accent touch-ups will restore the richness and beauty of the reredos which towers behind and above the entire sanctuary. Our most iconic architectural and artistic element has been mostly affected by the decades of incense and candle soot and many of the finer details have become faded or covered.

3 – The Holy Spirit Dome

  • Thanks to the generosity of one of our campaign’s first donors, the entire interior of the dome will be painted gold and a large symbol of the Holy Spirit will be prominently placed at its center, a powerful visual reminder that everything we celebrate here at the the Parish is thanks to the grace of God and the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Initial design concept hand-drawn by Charles Nazarian of CB Fisk Organ Builders during the May 2023 visit to Church of the Little Flower
Early stage scale-model of the rear of the church with the organ in the balcony/loft

Pipe Organ Features

  • Miami’s first mechanical action pipe organ, to be built and installed by CB Fisk Organs
  • It will include approximately 4,000 pipes
  • Designed to complement the art and architecture of the church
  • Inspired by the Cathedral Organ in Lisieux, France
  • Check back often to see updates to the scale model as more details are finalized and added!
Close-up view of the new Pipe Organ scale model
Charles Nazarian of CB Fisk Organ Builders reviewing copies of the original church floor plans with Jorge Santibáñez and Luis Cuza during the September 2023 visit to the CB Fisk Workshop in Gloucester, Massachusetts
Fr. Manny Alvarez admiring the scale model at the CB Fisk Workshop in Gloucester, Massachusetts
Rendering of the New STS Multipurpose Center from Across the Blacktop

The New STS Multipurpose Center will feature multiple classrooms, a full performing arts stage, a smaller practice stage/black box theater, a full indoor basketball court, new athletic offices, a new main office area, and a new, more secure access/entry point to campus for parents and visitors.

Rendering of the Main Entrance to the New STS Multipurpose Center
Rendering of the New Secure Access Point to Campus and the Relocated Main Office Area

The design of the new STS Multipurpose Center was inspired by both the existing buildings on campus, with their familiar balcony grills, and by Comber Hall, featuring outdoor, 2nd-floor walkways overlooking the new main entrance along Indian Mound Trail to the south and the relocated sports field to the north.

View of the New STS Multipurpose Center from the Sports Field

With the music room being relocated to the new Multipurpose Center, the existing music room on the 2nd floor can be restored to the School Chapel, returning Jesus Christ, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, to the heart of our school campus.


Pictured above is the school chapel as it originally appeared. The stained glass windows to the left and the right, featuring the crests of the Archdiocese of Miami and of the Carmelite Sisters, are currently installed in the same window bays flanking the original sanctuary space.

Church of the Little Flower

  • Holy Spirit Dome – $1 Million
  • Pipe Organ – $1 Million
  • Saint Statues – $300,000 each
    • Our Lady of Mount Carmel
    • St. Joseph
    • St. Anthony of Padua
    • St. Therese of Lisieux
  • Church Pews – $5,000 each
    • 74 available
    • Available on a first-come, first-served basis, to be memorialized on one plaque inside the church.

St. Theresa School

  • STS Multipurpose Center – $1 Million
  • Performing Arts Stage – $500,000
  • Lobby/Trophy Atrium – $500,000
  • Basketball Court – $500,000SOLD
  • Sports Field – $500,000
  • Scoreboard – $300,000SOLD
  • Running Track – $300,000
  • Chapel – $250,000
  • Baseball Field – $100,000SOLD
  • Blackbox Theatre – $50,000
  • STEM Lab – $50,000SOLD
  • Bleachers (2 Available) – $25,000
  • All Classrooms on Campus – $10,000 Each
    • Please inquire with Ashley Sacks for availability of your desired classroom. Naming Rights for classrooms are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

To make a gift for one of our naming rights opportunities,
please contact Ashley Sacks, Director of Development, at ASacks@cotlf.org

Check back for the latest project updates as we keep a running timeline of the overall Centennial Campaign!


October 24-25, 2023: In a major collaborative effort, CB Fisk (Organ) and PMM Consulting Engineers meet on-site to investigate the existing church balcony and the structural support needs of the proposed new organ. Later, Canning Liturgical Arts (Church Interior), Threshold Acoustics, and New Holland Church Furniture (Pews) all convene at Church of the Little Flower for a team-wide project update and acoustical testing inside the church. Results of this testing will provide a better understanding of what preparatory work may be needed inside the church for the new organ and key insight into the final specifications of the organ itself. Collaboration is needed among all elements of the church project, as the end goal is for the organ and new pews to be reflective of, and in coordination with, the existing design of the church and the new elements that are being considered.

October 1, 2023: The public phase of the Centennial Campaign is launched at all Sunday Masses as Church of the Little Flower and St. Theresa School celebrates its parish Feast Day.

September 14-16, 2023: Fr Manny, Jorge Santibáñez, and Luis Cuza visit the CB Fisk Workshop in Gloucester, MA. In addition to a tour of the workshop, where they see first-hand how the Fisk Organs are designed and built by hand, they also visit the Fisk Organs installed at All Saints Church and Harvard Memorial Chapel. The highlight of the trip is the unveiling of the early-phase scale model of the COTLF Pipe Organ (Opus 166) placed in the rear gallery of the church. The scale model will continue to change as different elements of the project are confirmed. Once finalized, the scale model will be an exact replica of the church and the new organ, down to even the smallest of details!

Spring 2023: CB Fisk, out of Gloucester, MA, is selected as the organ builder for the Centennial organ project.

August 2022: The silent fundraising phase begins and the first $1 Million is pledged.

March 30, 2022: St. Theresa School is re-accredited with the condition that a gym is planned for and built within the accreditation period of 7 years. Planning for the STS Multipurpose Center immediately kicks off in earnest.

March 17, 2022: Fr Manny, Sr Rosalie, Jorge Santibáñez (Parish Life Coordinator), Ashley Sacks (Parish Development Director) and Luis Cuza (Parish Director of Music Ministries) meet with Archbishop Thomas Wenski to present the initial plans for the Centennial Campaign. On March 18, 2022, the Archbishop grants approval for the overall plan and the parish is given permission to proceed.

November 2021: Canning Liturgical Arts and New Holland Church Furniture meet on-site with parish staff to review project goals and formulate initial concept drawings for the restoration of the church interior and design of the new pews.

March 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic brings all plans to a full stop and all Centennial projects are tabled for future consideration.

January 2020: Fr Manny and Sr Rosalie meet with the City of Coral Gables Vice Mayor and preliminary research is done on the feasibility of constructing a gym on the school campus.

July 2019: Fr. Manny Alvarez becomes the 9th Pastor of Church of the Little Flower and St. Theresa School. As part of the transition in, he is updated on the proposed Centennial projects and an initial plan is set in place for 5-Year Centennial Campaign to be launched in 2021.

December 2018: Then-Pastor Fr Michael Davis formally presents a Centennial Plan to the Parish Council for consideration and feedback. Though never publicly launched, this sets the basic framework for what will eventually become the Building on Our Legacy Centennial Campaign.

2017: COTLF Staff begins to formulate a list of projects that can be undertaken within 10 years in anticipation of the parish centennial celebration in 2026. With the existing electric organ beginning to break down and fail, the installation of a new pipe organ is identified as the “crown jewel” project for the parish centennial.



Fundraising Progress

Campaign Goal: $13 Million
Total Pledged To Date: $5.5 Million
(At launch)

Giving Circles

Rose – $1 Million and Up
Diamond – $500,000 – $999,999
Gold – $300,000 – $499,999
Silver – $100,000 – $299,999
Bronze – $50,000 – $99,999

The Little Way – All gifts up to $49,999


For more information about the Centennial Campaign or how to make a pledge or gift,
contact Ashley Sacks, Director of Development, at ASacks@cotlf.org