On a sunny Wednesday morning in Bethel Park, Lynne Lynch, principal at Ave Maria Academy, asked her students to “think about tradition.”

Stephen Mahler and Lynne Lynch

Ave Maria Academy Principal Lynne Lynch speaks following the leading of prayer by eighth-grade teacher Stephen Mahler, right.

“I’m sure each and every one of you has your own special traditions that you share with your families at home,” she said. “It might be, for me, apple pie that I make that I received from my husband’s grandmother. I use that recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation, and someday I hope to pass it down to my son and his family.”

In the context of the morning’s activities, a long-standing annual event of the former St. Thomas More School now is a celebration for all students in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh’s new educational system for the South Hills.

In honor of the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary each Oct. 7, a series of balloons in the shape of a rosary has flown high above the athletic field at what now is Ave Maria’s Bethel Park campus. This year’s event, including recitation of the Holy Rosary was repeated in the afternoon at the Mt. Lebanon campus, formerly St. Bernard School.

Students from two now-closed schools, Our Lady of Grace in Scott Township and St. Anne in Castle Shannon, now attend Ave Maria’s two campuses as a result of a merger that took effect at the start of the academic year.

The school remains open five days a week for students to attend in person, and the option is available for youngsters to learn remotely as a safety precaution against COVID-19.

Lynch said despite the challenges presented by the merger and pandemic, the school year is progressing well so far.

“The children are building new lasting friendships and relationships,” she said. “And the families have been phenomenal. The teachers are such professionals, and they’re passionate about what they do. That makes us who we are, as well.”


Harry Funk/The Almanac

The tradition of balloons shaped like a Rosary continues at Ave Maria Academy’s Bethel Park campus, formerly St. Thomas More School.

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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