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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.