The parish Church of the Little Flower was established in the spring of 1926 at the request of a small group of Catholics in the new community of Coral Gables. The Most Reverend Patrick J. Barry, Bishop of Saint Augustine, announced that the parish was to be named in honor of Saint Therese of Lisieux, France, a Carmelite Sister, also known as the “Little Flower,” who had been recently canonized at the Vatican the previous year. The Masses of the new parish were initially celebrated in the convent library of Saint Joseph Academy, a boarding school that the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Saint Augustine, Florida had built and opened on church grounds in 1925. The sisters would eventually selflessly serve the parish for 65 years.
The 1920s was the era of the great depression. Resources were scarce. Father Thomas Comber, a missionary priest from Ireland, was entrusted with the task of being the community’s founding pastor, and overseeing the construction of a church. Father Comber had a “dream church” in mind, and asked local architects to design it. They drew up plans for a glorious Spanish Renaissance style church, but given the depression era, the cost was prohibitive. Father Comber had to initially settle for a simpler plan. And so, the first structure built for the new parish was the parish center and auditorium, which also served as a temporary church. It was designed to have a seating capacity of 800, and built by the O’Neill-Orr Construction Company of Miami. The formal dedication and blessing of the building took place on December 8, 1926 in a ceremony conducted by Bishop Patrick J. Barry and recognized by The Miami News as “one of the most noteworthy and significant events in the history of Coral Gables.”
This original church edifice served the parishioners of Little Flower for nearly a decade beyond World War II, during which members of the parish served in the Civil Defense Program. As peace and prosperity began to take hold of the post-World War II era, Father Comber prompted the Barry and Jay Company of Architects to revisit plans for his “dream church,” considering again the original plans from the 1920s and updating them to fit the new era of the early 1950s. To the delight of Father Comber and the people of Little Flower parish, the new church, which exists today, was built, and later dedicated by Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley of Saint Augustine, Florida on December 8, 1951, and has been the center of parish worship ever since. Subsequently, the first church building became the parish hall, named in honor of Monsignor Thomas Comber, the founding pastor, who had by this time been named a Prelate of Honor by the Pope. Monsignor Comber served for 36 years as pastor of The Church of the Little Flower.
Over the years, The Church of the Little Flower has become a staple in South Florida Catholicism. In addition to its current membership of being more than 3,000 registered households, people from all over the world are baptized and married here. Abundant ministries, some 50 at last count, are evident in the very vibrant life of the parish community. Preeminent among them is the education of children done at Saint Theresa Catholic School (formerly St. Joseph’s Academy), now administrated by the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, who assumed responsibility for the school in 1991, at the invitation of then-Pastor, Father Kenneth Whittaker. It was during Father Whittaker’s term of service that the buildings of Saint Theresa School and the Church of the Little Flower were declared historical sites in the City of Coral Gables.