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Beyond the classroom: A beacon for Rugby residents

By Staff | Sep 19, 2014

Although the Little Flower Catholic Elementary School in Rugby has been operational for 72 years (since 1942), it is easy to forget how and why some of the special events surrounding its inception took place. Especially for those readers who do not have a direct connection to the Little Flower School, they may find it very interesting to learn the history of this institution, which is a landmark in the Rugby area. For those who have attended or have a connection to Little Flower Catholic School, they have experienced its very influential growth in the educational and spiritual developmental climate of people in the Rugby community. Here is the story (as provided on the Little Flower School website):

History of Little Flower

In May of 1941, a Mr. Pluth called at the Catholic church rectory in Rugby for the purpose of selling materials he was salvaging from a school he was wrecking in Chisholm, Minn. There was only one question in the mind of Father Cloos as he listened to Mr. Pluth, “Where was he going to get the money?”

Mr. Pluth was too determined a salesman to accept a flat rejection. Mr. Pluth left Rugby and drove directly to Fargo to ask Bishop Muench for the answer. A few days later Bishop Muench wrote to Father Cloos and informed him of the visit from Mr. Pluth and advised the pastor of the need and important advantages of a school at Rugby, and assured him that the diocese would help along with the project to the amount of $1,000 a year for 10 years.

Mr. Pluth accompanied Father Cloos to Chisholm to inspect the building. On arriving in Chisholm, Father Cloos found that the building was in good condition and that very little additional material would be needed. By the end of November the trucks began rolling into Rugby with materials and the problem of where to store them. This problem was solved, and by the end of January all the material salvaged from the school at Chisholm was on the building site in Rugby.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan perpetrated the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor and overnight we found ourselves at war with Japan. This created new problems with a building permit and being able to get materials for the project. Finally in May the building permit was issued, stipulating that the building was not to cost more than $30,000, and that less than 10 percent of materials were to be purchased after May 1. Joseph Hoffart was engaged as building engineer and ground was broken May 17. Farmers came with their tractors and scrapers and within two days had completed the excavation.

Five days later the footing was poured and cribbing began for the foundation walls. In December, an inspector returned and was surprised that the building was completed, and after studying the invoices and labor sheets was satisfied that the total cost was as claimed and within the building permit restrictions.

Little Flower School opened its doors Sept. 14, 1942, with an enrollment of 156 students and a faculty of four sisters from the Franciscan Convent at Hankinson.

Growth was characteristic of Little Flower the last 25 years. Little Flower School, an important entity of the parish, grew and improved academically and structurally. With the establishment of a diocesan superintendent of schools as a full-time position, Little Flower received the encouragement, support and direction to continue to work for excellence in education. Quality education and individual pupil attention were two points stressed. This meant hiring only certified teachers, reduction of number of pupils per teacher, and the addition of a physical education teacher and a part-time librarian.

Under the direction of the diocesan superintendent and the newly-organized Fargo Catholic Principals Association, the curriculum was examined and re-evaluated, followed by textbook changes. The next change was the introduction of teacher in-services; monthly, then weekly faculty meetings; continuing education of the teachers; and the annual reports to the state department of education. When the state department introduced evaluation for accreditation, Little Flower received excellent evaluation and continued to do so through the years. In the classrooms appeared equipment such as overhead projectors, listening and learning centers, cassette tape players, filmstrip projectors and science centers.

Little Flower also benefited from federally funded programs. Help was offered in speech, learning disabilities and special education. Certain criteria needed to be met prior to receiving these benefits. Special arrangements were made with Ely Elementary so our students could walk over to classes at their school. After a few years and a new interpretation of the law, the title instructors were permitted to use Little Flower classroom time. Little Flower for a short period of time had a full-time learning disabilities and a part-time speech teacher. Later federal funds were cut and so were these positions.

The mid-1970s brought the decline of religious vocations; the financial burden brought the closing of the 7th and 8th grades, leaving only grades one through six.

The early-80s brought the kindergarten class to Little Flower making the school kindergarten through grade 6. During the years there has been tremendous growth in Little Flower: a parent teacher organization, parent-teacher conferences, the celebration of Catholic Schools Week, etc. There have also been many efforts to raise money for the extra needs of the school.

From 1987-88, James Kappel was our principal. He firmly believed in technology in the classrooms. Through funds provided by the Eagles, the KCs, and the Christian Mothers, the school was able to obtain several computers.

In 1986, a federal grant was received by the school from the Department of Energy, providing a new roof. The large windows were enclosed and insulated. The school again received a coat of paint from gracious parents.

In 2002 the school celebrated 60 years in Rugby. In 2008 an alumni organization was revived and a newsletter was started called “Blue Jay Briefings.”

The history of Little Flower School would not be possible without the generous volunteers, family support, and the Sisters of Saint Francis of Hankinson. These people make Little Flower School a community to be proud of with their time, talents, energy and extra money, which goes to improve the spiritual and academic growth of Little Flower students.

What does the Little Flower School name mean?

Little Flower Catholic Elementary School is named such because it is associated with the Little Flower Catholic Church, which is so instrumental in its support. The words Little Flower refer to Saint Therese, who became known as the “little flower”.

St. Therese was born Therese Martin, the last of nine children born to Louis and Zelie Martin on January 2, 1873, in Alencon, France. However, only five of these children lived to reach adulthood. Precocious and sensitive, Therese needed much attention. Her mother died when she was 4 years old. As a result, her father and sisters babied young Therese. She had a spirit that wanted everything. Therese’s family moved to Lisieux, France, when she was about 11 years of age.

At the age of 13, on Christmas Eve in 1886, Therese had a conversion that transformed her life. From then on, her powerful energy and sensitive spirit were turned toward love, instead of keeping herself happy. What she experienced she referred to in her biography as her ‘Christmas Conversion.’ Because this incident occurred at Christmas and because the little flower refers to it as her conversion is why she chose the religious name Sister Therese of the Child Jesus when she entered the Carmelite convent in Lisieux to give her whole life to God at age 15.

The world came to know Therese through her autobiography, “Story of a Soul.” She described her life as a “little way of spiritual childhood.” She lived each day with an unshakable confidence in God’s love. “What matters in life,” she wrote, “is not great deeds, but great love.” Therese lived and taught a spirituality of attending to everyone and everything well and with love. She believed that just as a child becomes enamored with what is before her, we should also have a childlike focus and totally attentive love. Therese’s spirituality is of doing the ordinary, with extraordinary love.

Therese loved nature and often used imagery to explain God’s presence everywhere. She saw the world as God’s garden and each person a different kind of flower which Jesus was delighted with. She never thought of herself as a brilliant rose or a regal lily, but as a small wild flower; something hidden and simple but never-the-less blooming in God’s presence.

Therese saw herself as any little flower in the forest, surviving and flourishing despite all the hardships of the seasons. She felt that, because of God’s grace, she was stronger than she looked. She saw herself as the “little flower of Jesus,” who gave glory to God by just being her beautiful little self among all the other flowers in God’s garden. Because of this beautiful analogy, the title “little flower” remained with St. Therese.

After a long struggle with tuberculosis, she died on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24. Her last words were the story of her life: “My God, I love You!”

Her inspiration and powerful presence from heaven touched many people very quickly. Therese was canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 17, 1925. Had she lived, she would have been only 52 years old when she was declared a Saint.

“My mission – to make God loved – will begin after my death,” she said. “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses.” Roses have been described and experienced as Saint Therese’s signature. Countless millions have been touched by her intercession and imitate her “little way.” She has been acclaimed “the greatest saint of modern times.” In 1997, Pope John Paul II declared St. Therese a Doctor of the Church – in tribute to the powerful way her spirituality has influenced people all over the world.

(Facts about the life of Saint Therese the Little Flower courtesy littleflower.org/abouttherese/learn/ and sttherese.webhero.com/St-Theresa-Little-Flower.htm)

Little Flower School continues with tradition

Little Flower School (LFS) has a long tradition of promoting excellence in academics, while focusing on and encouraging spiritual growth, and assisting in the formation of students in all aspects of life. LFS appreciates how our counterparts in the public school system have accepted our students into their programs, and we salute them for all their efforts.

We at Little Flower School will continue to focus our students on actively living their faith and providing an example of character to others in daily life. We will continue to emphasize the richness of our faith tradition. We will continue to help our students to imitate Saint Therese the Little Flower in the “little way of spiritual childhood doing the ordinary, with extraordinary love.”

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