'God’s Little Flower': Remembering Our Beginning
It’s a beautiful last day of school at Stella Maris Academy. At the Holy Rosary campus, children are shrieking with laughter outside, playing yard games, and stuffing their mouths with hot dogs from the grill. In the midst of the fun and chaos, one group of girls sit to the side of the playground, admiring a small garden with beautiful, bright yellow flowers.
The sign by the garden reads “2nd Grade First Communion Garden. Dedicated to Sister Samuella. Re-established 2011”. Hidden beneath the garden’s worn sign and pretty flowers is a rich history.
Sister Samuella was a Dominican from Springfield, Illinois, who came to Holy Rosary with a small group of Dominicans in 1987, explained second grade teacher Suzy Wagness. Sr. Samuella taught first grade for many years in Duluth.
“She reminded many of us of Saint Theresa, ‘God’s Little Flower’. She was constantly doing acts of kindness for all of us,” Suzy said. “All of us went to her for spiritual advice and knew that if we asked her to pray for us, she would ‘hound Heaven’ with special prayers.”
Suzy said that most days, Sr. Samuella was the last to leave school and could usually be found cleaning up litter on the school grounds on her walk home.
“When she wasn't teaching, she was washing our classroom windows, cleaning the kitchen, faculty room, washing coffee cups, and tirelessly weeding a hopeless and small flower garden on the school grounds.”
Sr. Samuella returned to the Mother House in the early 2000s while in her 70s. Shortly after, Suzy decided to dedicate a school garden in her name.
“It is dedicated to Sr. Samuella because the Dominicans had such a long tradition here and Sr. Samuella worked tirelessly to beautify the school grounds by cleaning, weeding, and planting little things whenever she could,” Suzy said. “It reminds us of her years of service and how small acts of kindness touch so many people.”
It was named the First Communion Garden because the second grade parents of that particular year wanted to plant bulbs in the fall and have them come up around the time of First Communion. “I thought Sr. Samuella would be happy with our efforts to beautify the school grounds and at the same time give acknowledgement to that wonderful Sacrament of Holy Eucharist,” Suzy added.
It became a beautiful tradition that the second grade class now embraces every year as each class has the honor of tending to the First Communion Garden.
“Both of my boys now have planted bulbs as a second grade class in the fall, in the hopes that by the time First Communion arrives in the spring, the flowers are starting to bloom,” said Kellie Scissons, parent at Stella Maris Academy. “It is such a great symbol of all of the wonderful growth our second graders have made.”
The garden has also pulled in countless families, as parents have played a huge role in caring for the garden.
“Traditionally, the second grade parents have helped tend to the garden by weeding it in the fall and preparing it for the students to plant,” Kellie said. “From year to year, the garden might be handled differently and the parents play a large role in maintaining it.”
And every fall, when the weeding and planting is done, students and parents leave the garden “in the hopes of new life coming forth in the spring,” Suzy said.
“And we remember the Dominicans who started our school.”