By Christina Leslie | Correspondent

CAN WE TALK? • Trinitarian Father Gerard Lynch, pastor of St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville, visits Kathleen Ritchey and her fourth-grade class Jan. 24 in the parish school. Mary Stadnyk photo

“You need a team to run a school,” said Trinitarian Father Gerard F. Lynch, pastor of St. Ann Parish, about the 2010 Blue Ribbon School of Excellence which shares the church’s Lawrenceville campus. “I leave the day-to-day to principal [John] McKenna but there are no surprises, for we meet regularly.”

The priest continued, “It goes hand in glove: no one person is more important than another. Each has a gift from God, and you bring them all to the table.”

Father Lynch has been bringing his gifts to that proverbial table since his education in first public grammar, then Catholic secondary, schools in his native Brooklyn. After serving more than 30 years in Asbury Park’s Our Lady of Mount Parish Carmel Parish, (now Mother of Mercy Parish), he was assigned to helm St. Ann’s.

In addition to regular meetings with the school principal, Father Lynch interacts with the school children often as they move seamlessly between the school building and the church complex for First Friday Masses (“where they learn proper Church etiquette,” the long-time priest stressed) and classes. His office in the parish’s Faith Development Center assures he is always there for a quick chat or handshake with a student.

“[The children] see me at least once a week, and since they come over to the Center for library, art and music classes, they often see me there,” he said.

Chuckling, he confessed, “I like to wait until the teachers have the kids all lined up to return to class, them come into the hall and watch them come over and say hello. They are in a perfect line, and with my visit, it is all undone.”

But the informal interaction plants seeds which are recalled long after the school day is complete.

Father Lynch continued, “I know they talk about me at home, for their parents see me at Mass and tell me how their children remember the details of our conversations. For me, it’s a natural way to be. They know I believe school is important.”

The pastor’s obvious love for and support of the school is echoed in the parish community. School events are featured prominently in the weekly bulletin, while parish programs are also included in the school news sources.

“Just yesterday, I was encouraging the parishioners at Mass to go over to the cafeteria and indulge in the pancake and sausage breakfast hosted by the eighth graders to fund raise for their trip,” Father Lynch said.

“It is a great responsibility to have a Catholic school today, but it spurs me on to work harder,” he asserted. “A Catholic school is important to the life of a parish; a Catholic school is always a source of new life, that’s the bottom line. A parish with a school is really alive.”

The priest paused, then reflected on more than three decades of experience in faith-filled learning environments.

“The value of Catholic education is it gives kids an opportunity to thrive, to gain confidence and self esteem,” Father Lynch said, “so that when they leave here, they can go out and conquer the world.”