Bishop blesses new Aquinas Academy building
Holy water rained last week on Aquinas Academy's new $4.8 million Mross-McGonigle Hall in Hampton.
“It's beautiful,” Bishop David Zubik said after he sprinkled every hall, stairwell and classroom with the holy water.
“Every inch of the school is blessed,” Zubik announced as he walked outdoors to the applause of students, teachers and parents.
The 15-classroom building — named after two major donor families — includes science, art and music labs; a combined library and media center; and two conference rooms.
Zubik blessed the two-story, red brick, Georgian-style structure after celebrating Mass March 23 in the academy's chapel.
“He has been so instrumental and influential,” Peter Blume, president of the academy's board of directors, told those gathered for the liturgy, including hundreds of students, plus their teachers, and multiple pews of parents.
“We're so indebted to him,” Blume said about Zubik.
After the Mass, students presented Zubik with a handmade, 14-inch-by-22-inch card and handcrafted flowers, both listing students' prayers offered for him.
Zubik then thanked the young people for their prayers because “the job of being a bishop is getting tougher and tougher,” he told the students.
In appreciation, Zubik gave the students and their teachers a day off — “a free day,” he said, “when you can take a free day on me.”
Zubik then proceeded outdoors to invoke God's blessings on the academy's new building and its students.
“We also ask that the students will find in their teachers the image of Christ,” Zubik prayed aloud.
Before he became the Roman Catholic bishop of the Pittsburgh diocese, “I spent 13 years of my life in secondary education,” said Zubik, once vice principal of Quigley Catholic High School in Baden, Beaver County.
Aquinas Academy operates on the 13-acre former site of St. Catherine of Sweden Catholic Church. It's the first lay-run Catholic school in metropolitan Pittsburgh.
“I almost passed up the property,” said Zubik, recalling his first visit to assess the property's suitability for such an educational venture.
Aquinas Academy opened in 1996 with 13 students. About 345 kindergartners through 12th-graders now attend the academy, which also offers a preschool program.
“What a thrill it is to see Aquinas Academy succeed,” Zubik said.
Graziano Construction broke ground for Mross-McGonigle Hall on Aug. 27, 2013. Students began attending classes in the new building on Dec. 9, 2014.
Three individuals each donated $1 million to help construct Mross-McGonigle Hall. Seventy percent of the academy's families' also pledged about $1.8 million to the project.
About 70 percent of those pledges have been received, said Blume, the academy's board's president and a partner in the downtown Pittsburgh law firm Clark, Hill PLC.
Aquinas Academy recently got a $1,000 check, too, from Patcraft, the flooring company, as one of four schools selected from 124 entries to receive the cash prize in Patcraft's Schools That Rock contest.
“We're going to use it to enhance our audio-visual equipment,” Head of School Leslie Mitros said.
Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.