[little flower]
Upon Reflection
Years of work and love result in devotees bringing statue of St. Therese to campus
by Kelly Knufken
photo by Barbara Ferguson

There she stands in the revamped rose garden behind the Hughes Administration Center, wearing a habit of the kind nuns wore 100 years ago and carrying a rose, a Bible and a cross.

Of course, the serene statue has no idea of the commitment and work it took to bring her to campus by a number of believers who never lost faith.

Followers of St. Therese, a Carmelite nun who died of tuberculosis at age 24, are devoted. Trustee emeritus Robert Baker remembers his fascination with the saint some call the “little flower” beginning when he was in sixth grade, during the confusing time after his parents had divorced. A picture of St. Therese — then a relatively new saint — hung at the back of the schoolroom.

“Wherever I went, it seemed like the eyes of this picture followed me,” Baker says. “I became very curious.”

St. Therese continued to play a role in his life. He counts nine times he should have been wounded or killed in Korea, yet he emerged unscathed. He believes that St. Therese was watching over him.

“Basically she has been with me all my life and taken care of me,” Baker says. “She brings me inspiration.” That’s why he donated the statue to the university, as well as three others to local institutions.

Diana Githens is another who worked to bring St. Therese to USD. “In my family there has always been devotion to St. Therese,” says Githens, an administrative assistant in the law school who’s worked at USD for 23 years. She recounts her quest for the statue as six years of “work and love,” complete with paperwork filling two binders. “Seeing her beautiful presence here on campus — she’ll be an inspiration to so many people,” Githens says. “People can pray, genuflect, sit and meditate. It’ll be a beautiful place for people to see her and reflect.”