​Little Flower School providing Catholic education for 95 years

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Little Flower School providing Catholic education for 95 years

The bells from the tower at Little Flower Basilica chime at the quarters of the hour and can be heard across the west side neighborhood and Woodlawn Lake. Across the street, another bell rings, signaling the start of a new day at Little Flower School (LFS).

LFS, celebrating its 95th year educating the children of San Antonio, has been a member of the Little Flower Family since its beginning as the parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Thérèse. Father Gregory Ross, OCD, pastor and rector of Little Flower Basilica, considers providing childhood Catholic education a blessing: “It’s a tremendous gift to give to a child to be formed in the Faith and to be educated in a Catholic environment. It helps us to see the whole world within the context of God and our relationship with God, and it’s a gift you can give to a child that’s going to stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

The school functions today as a Pre-K to eighth grade school and is starting its second year under the micro-school model. This model provides a richer learning experience by promoting academic, emotional, and social development, along with facilitating the formation of stronger relationships with peers and teachers through multilevel classrooms. In a world that is more connected and values collaboration and networking, students are getting an early start at developing increasingly important skills to succeed in their futures.

A high standard and commitment to education has always existed at LFS. It achieved Texas Education Agency accreditation in 1949, one of the first Catholic schools to do so. Adapting and updating to accommodate new teaching methods and emerging technologies is not new for the school. Periodic renovations and modernizations have marked the school’s history: Typing classes were introduced when the school acquired its computer lab. Classrooms today are fitted with projectors and smart boards.

By far the most rewarding instruction the students receive is their spiritual formation. The school places a strong focus on living out ten Gospel Values — Reconciliation, Justice, Courage, Community, Faith, Hope, Service, Love, Patience, and Humility — highlighting a different value every month. The Carmelite friars contribute an integral part of their tradition as they promote St. Thérèse’s Little Way. Students encounter Jesus by attending Mass weekly, serving at Mass as altar servers or readers, and through their work in parish activities and other community service projects.

Over the last near century, no matter the challenges, the Providence and intercession of St. Thérèse has guided the school over the last 95 years. LFS was founded in July 1926, four months after the arrival of the Carmelite fathers who founded the parish, in partnership with the Sisters of the Holy Ghost and Mary Immaculate (now the Holy Spirit Sisters), who would serve the school as teachers. The Sisters had been previously tasked by the archdiocese to canvas the west side of San Antonio to identify the need for a Catholic school, which familiarized them with the area.

Funds were scarce and initially both the school and the church operated out of the same small wooden building. A set of folding doors would close the opening of a niche that housed the altar, and students would arrange their desks in the middle of two rooms that were created by closing another set of folding doors in the middle of the building. When school was over for the day, students would move their desks to the sides of the room and open both sets of doors making the space ready for Mass. In the 20 years that followed, the school would bounce between temporary arrangements: first, to hastily built classrooms at a house purchased as the Sisters’ residence; next to the basement of the shrine upon its completion in 1931; followed by a rock-veneered building across the street from the shrine. In 1938, LFS opened a co-ed high school, with its classes located in the now former Sisters’ residence. By 1942, the high school classes were moved to join the grammar school at the rock-veneered building.

In 1946, the present-day building that houses LFS was completed. Built from the same Indiana limestone that graces the façade of the shrine, the new school was the culmination of planning and efforts undertaken by the Carmelite friars since their arrival in San Antonio 20 years earlier. The original small wooden building that housed the parish and school was moved within the new school grounds to serve as the cafeteria.

Father Jim Curiel, one of the Discalced Carmelite friars, graduated from Little Flower School in 1979, “Back then it was a more neighborhood school; everyone knew each other from the area.” Current times have expanded the school’s neighborhood reach to one that encompasses the entirety of San Antonio. Faculty at LFS are cognizant of the unique needs this larger reach brings and offer listening ears and helping hands in a way that echoes the work of the Sisters in the 1920s.

It is through this dedication that LFS has continued to form children into successful and faithful Catholic men and women. Teachers and Friars work together to help students know that they are loved and valued. This individualized attention is a reflection of St. Thérèse’s Little Way, which is founded in the confidence of God’s love for us all.

As students head home for the day and exit their school, the grandeur of the Basilica greets them, reminding them of their calling and instruction to be the living Church to those they encounter; its soaring bell towers reminding them of the lofty dreams they can achieve.

Marc Chavez is a student at the University of Texas at San Antonio interning with the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower. He is studying communication and plans after graduating to pursue a career in public relations.