BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
Sixty-two little girls filled the hallway inside Owensboro Catholic School’s K-3 Campus in the afternoon of March 3, 2020, their voices raised in happy chatter as adult leaders organized them into a line. Though they were of varying ages – kindergarten through third grade – all had one thing in common: a t-shirt featuring an image of St. Therese of Lisieux and the words “Little Flowers Girls Club.”
“We started this last spring,” said Caroline Fleischmann, who helped establish the club last year. Her daughter, Maggie, is a third grader at the K-3 Campus, and a member of Little Flowers.
Fleischmann said there was a Little Flowers club about 10 years ago, but it had folded. This time around, she said the club has blossomed as “girls talked to their friends about it” and interest grew.
The Little Flowers Girls Club program, named for St. Therese – who is often called “the Little Flower” – was written by Rachel Watkins in 1993 to help girls learn virtues through scriptures and the lives of female saints. Today it is distributed by Behold Publications, headquartered in Buckner, Ky., and there are about 400 Little Flowers Girls Clubs worldwide.
Joan Stromberg, co-owner of Behold Publications, told the WKC that registration as a club is voluntary, so there may be even more clubs in operation that are unregistered. They also do not register individual girls, “so our best guess based on the materials we sell every year is about 5,000-6,000 girls who use our programs each year,” she said.
“Most of our clubs are in the U.S., although they are also popular on military bases around the world and other English-speaking countries,” said Stromberg.
The girls gathered in Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Hall, (which shares a campus with the K-3 school), greeted by Sr. M. Francis Teresa Scully, DCJ. Sr. Scully, whose main ministry is directing the Carmel Home in Owensboro, also helps plan and lead the Little Flowers meetings.
Hayden Flynn was given the role of leading the St. Therese prayer that day.
“May I always do the little things of life extra well for the love of God,” said Hayden, reading the prayer out of their Little Flowers workbook.
A quick snack followed, and then Sr. Scully rose to speak.
“Today you will be earning your truthfulness badge,” she said to the girls, who now wore light blue sashes featuring various badges. “You’ll be learning about St. Bridget of Sweden.”
“She practiced charity in what she spoke and how she spoke,” said Sr. Scully.
Workbooks opened to the section on St. Bridget, the girls colored an illustration of the saint as a young girl. Then they started on their craft of the day, with the older “leaders” (third graders) assisting the younger girls.
Fleischmann said they meet twice a month and activities include service projects, such as making baby blankets for the local Birthright of Owensboro (a pregnancy care center), and visiting and doing crafts with the residents of the Carmel Home.
For their previous meeting, the girls had learned about St. Frances Xavier Cabrini and earned their “virtue of industry” badges as they assembled a large daffodil cross to hang in the K-3 school for Lent. They have also held a mother-daughter tea, and are planning a mother-daughter camping trip at Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp and Retreat Center this summer.
Fleischmann said the school’s principal, Jim Tinius, is unable to attend the meetings but is “very supportive” of Little Flowers, as is Kristen Miller, the school’s differentiated learning specialist. On Little Flowers meeting days, Tinius lets the members wear their club t-shirts with their school uniform bottoms.
Susie Harris is a regular volunteer at Little Flowers, since she has two granddaughters in the club – Avery Mills in first grade, and Laney Latanzio in kindergarten.
Harris said she finds it “wonderful that (Little Flowers) can put such complex stories about the saints on their level.”
Mary Osborne, a third-grader, told the WKC that it’s “really cool to be able to help with the littler kids.”
Her fellow third graders take their roles just as seriously, and just enjoy being a part of the club overall.
Catherine Ray said she enjoys helping the younger girls, such as assisting when they can’t find a page number. Anna Mudd recalled making bracelets for their neighbors, Valentines for the elderly, and Christmas caroling for the elderly, too.
Fleischmann said she relies heavily on the commitment of the many volunteers, moms and grandmothers who assist in planning and running the meetings and activities.
“My main goal is that they are full of joy,” said Fleischmann of the Little Flowers, and her daughter, Maggie, couldn’t agree more.
“What I love about it is that we all get to have fun, and we all get to learn about the saints,” she said.
If you’d like to contact Caroline to find out more about starting your own Little Flowers club, email her at [email protected]
Originally printed in the April 2020 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.
Copyright © 2020 Diocese of Owensboro/The Western Kentucky Catholic