With the expanding growth of the Catholic population in the northeast section of
On October 5, 1938, ground was broken and the first step was taken in the construction of the building, designed to educate Catholic high school girls from seventy-two parishes.
From late 1938, when the work was begun, until the May 21, 1939, cornerstone laying, great progress was made. Since this was to be a very modern high school, no efforts were spared in planning and equipping the building—attractive in its entire layout—from the iron fence enclosing its soft green lawn to the massive edifice of red brick, with 585 widows. His Eminence Dennis Cardinal Dougherty laid the cornerstone of Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls at Tenth and Lycoming Streets in the presence of more than three thousand people. The colorful bands of John W. Hallahan and West Philadelphia Catholic Girls’ High Schools greeted the guests.
Under the leadership and encouragement of Cardinal Dougherty, and with gifts from his Golden Jubilee, the school was made possible. To express his personal devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux, His Eminence named the school “Little Flower” confident that as patroness of the school she, in her “Little Way,” would be a model for the girls who would be educated here. Years later, the Class of 1953 would purchase a statue of St. Therese to be placed at the entrance of the school.
It was on August 27, 1939 that the building was formally opened for inspection. On this afternoon, Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls was dedicated by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Hugh L. Lamb, Auxiliary Bishop of
On Tuesday, September 5, the sophomores and juniors, who formerly were pupils either in the John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School or in the several diocesan annexes, increased the initial enrollment to 2,280 students.
The first class graduated in June 1941 and in 1944, Little Flower received its first accreditation by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. In 1953, Little Flower was the largest Catholic girls’ high school in the country, with a student body numbering 3,312 students.
The first administration of the school was directed through the Office of the Diocesan Superintendent of Schools under Monsignor John J. Bonner with the assistance of the Prefects of Activities, Discipline and Studies. In 1952,Reverend Joseph Brown was assigned the first principal and served in this capacity until 1967 when he was succeeded by Reverend L. James Mullen. Reverend Monsignor H. Glenn Bennett became principal in 1972. Reverend Joseph J. McLaughlin assumed office in June 1981; he was replaced in September 1988 by Reverend Joseph T. Marino. Ms. Marie Gallagher assumed the duties of principal in 1991.
A critical turning point in Little Flower’s history was the October 9, 1992, announcement that Little Flower and nine other schools would be closed due to the deficit situation of the Archdiocesan High School System. Coopers and Lybrand was employed by the Archdiocese to conduct a study of all the high schools and to project their enrollment when “Open Enrollment” would be implemented for the 1993-1994 school year instead of the “parish feeder school process.” According to Coopers and Lybrand, utilizing “Open Enrollment, by 2000, Little Flower would have a school population of 12 students if it remained open.
Shock waves swiftly traveled throughout “church and city” and across the country as our Alumnae heard about the report. Even though this news was grim, the decision was not final. The LF spirit went into action and the school turned to St. Therese, its patroness to intervene for “her school.” From that time on and continuing today, every Monday, a red rose was placed at the statue of St. Therese, and the school’s relationship with the Carmelite Sisters on
At an open meeting held at
It was obvious that the study overlooked the strong, emotional bond that exists between a Little Flower Alumna and her school along with that renowned “Little Flower Spirit.” The bleak news about the future of their Alma Mater, reignited our Alumnae’s love and passion for LF, and so thousands of dollars poured into the Development Office in response to the Scholarship Fund Appeal requested by principal, Ms. Marie Gallagher.
Then, on December 14, 1992, the long-awaited decision arrived. Students gathered in the auditorium to receive the news—“Little Flower was staying open!” Students tearfully and gratefully sang the Alma Mater. Alumnae all over the city joined hands in their respective places of work and sang along with their younger sisters, being televised by the local news stations. Attending a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Carmelite Monastery became an annual tradition for the school and the Alumnae.
In 1993, the Archdiocese adopted the President/Principal Governance Model in order to enable the principal to continue overseeing the internal running of the school while the president’s focus would be to cultivate Alumnae, increase the school population, and market the school. Sister Joan Rychalsky, IHM was appointed the first President of Little Flower. Under Sister’s leadership, the Friends of Little Flower, Inc. was formed and Little Flower became the first Archdiocesan girls’ high school to have an endowment.
Sister Kathleen Klarich, RSM was appointed principal in 1995, and Sister Donna Shallo, IHM, was appointed president in 2000.
Through the years, the academic course offerings have been expanded to meet the students’ needs as Little Flower strives always to offer the highest quality Catholic education in this 21st century. Advanced Placement courses are available to eligible students; computers and iPads have replaced the typewriters, and LCD projectors and SmartBoards now occupy the space once held by the overhead projectors. Little Flower was the first Archdiocesan high school to provide a Title 1 “English Speakers of Other Languages” (ESOL) program to foreign-born girls and boys.
The Athletic Program now consists of 14 sports and Little Flower remains committed to the Fine Arts Program, housed in the former Our Lady of Confidence Day School.