Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School has a long and rich history of partnership between the parish and school. The founding pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Church Fr. Louis E. Marionneux envisioned a school where the children of the parish could learn the values of the Church and family while getting an exceptional academic foundation for their further education. Decades later, the school’s mission statement sets out the simple yet profound vision that still inspires the Our Lady of Mercy community: “Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School provides foundations for a life of prayer, knowledge, and service.”
Under the guidance of Fr. Marionneaux, the parishioners of Our Lady of Mercy Church proposed the building of a parochial elementary school. By early 1953, Our Lady of Mercy was ready to break ground for the construction of the school, which would be the first permanent building of the parish.
While the first school building was under construction, temporary space was found for classrooms. Mrs. Hazel Blanchard was named principal, and school opened in September 1953 with 174 students in first through fourth grades. Our Lady of Mercy School attracted national attention as the only Catholic school to have an all-lay faculty. The next spring the permanent school was available, and the formal dedication of the school was held on May 2, 1954.
Ground breaking for a new church/classroom building took place on November 21, 1955. The 15,500 square foot structure included a church/classroom with capacity for 1,100 worshipers and three class rooms on each side of the central church building. Long-range plans for the building called for it to be converted to a gym-auditorium when a permanent church was constructed. Archbishop Joseph F. Rummel dedicated the church/school on September 24, 1956.
As the Mercy parish family grew, the church/classroom could no longer accommodate Sunday Mass and the school’s classes. Classrooms along each side of the church were joined to the church by windows which opened during Mass, allowing parishioners to sit in the classrooms rather than stand in the back of the church. The school held classes in temporary buildings and any space available on the church/school campus. However, these challenges did not dampen the enthusiasm of parents or enrollment in the school. Our Lady of Mercy parish and school continued to grow and thrive.
In late 1961, Our Lady of Mercy welcomed four Salesian Sisters from Cuba, known as the Daughters of Mercy, Help of Christians. Sister Theresa, Sister Elba, Sister Gloria and Sister Raphael resided in a house across the street from the main school building and assisted with religion classes and various duties in the school. These four sisters would be the forerunners of other Salesians who would serve Our Lady of Mercy School for the next 30 years.
After a decade of significant and lasting contributions to Catholic education, the principal Mrs. Blanchard resigned her position, and Sr. Philomena led the school as principal.
On March 1, 1964, Fr. Andrew Frey was assigned to Our Lady of Mercy Church as its second pastor. Fr. Frey directed a series of improvements to the church and school to expand and upgrade all facilities, meeting the growth of the parish community. Updates to the school began with the transformation of Marquette Avenue, formerly a dirt road, to a blacktopped road with sidewalks and gutters.
Again in 1982 a major school improvement plan was begun to increase the capacity of the school. The newest building, the Early Childhood Center, held the lower grades beginning in fall of 1983.
Msgr. Frey retired after 25 years of dedicated service. He was followed by Fr. Michael Moroney, who began his time as pastor in June of 1987. Fr. Mike was a gifted administrator and an ambitious builder who helped initiate another master plan to address the growing needs of the school in 1992. Also at this time, the Salesian Sisters decided to concentrate their efforts in other areas of education after thirty years of faithful service to Our Lady of Mercy School. Ms. Donna Melancon was hired as the school’s new principal and helped lead the school family through the transition. Mrs. Carolyn Guidry became the next principal in 1995 and built on the strong foundation laid by her predecessors.
A parish-wide fund raising campaign began in 1994 to accomplish the plans proposed by Fr. Mike and the Building Committee. Improvements to the school included renovations to classrooms and administrative offices, new eighth grade classrooms, a library, computer lab, science lab, and cafeteria. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new construction were held on October 23, 1995. The doors of the school were opened with the new construction by the fall of 1996. The new buildings were officially dedicated on October 19, 1996. With the completion of this project, Our Lady of Mercy School was now prepared to face the challenges of the New Millennium.
In 2001, Fr. Miles Walsh became Mercy’s fourth pastor and continued to faithfully support the early vision for the school. Mrs. Guidry retired as principal in May 2009, and Ms. Tina Villa served as principal for the following three years. Mr. Brian Moscona began his role as principal of Our Lady of Mercy in July of 2012. He worked closely with the church and school community to plan several stages of renovations to school facilities, enhancing many aspects of the campus and uniting its aesthetic even more closely with that of the church.In November 2016, Mr. Christopher Porche was named as interim principal, and in January of 2017 he was officially appointed as the new principal of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School. The Mercy community recognized that Mr. Porche represented the values and leadership that have been reflective of Our Lady of Mercy for over sixty years. His experience of thirty plus years in Catholic education, coupled with his own deep Catholic faith, have prepared him to be a spiritual, responsible and communicative leader.
Mr. Porche continues to guide Our Lady of Mercy towards academic and spiritual success. He believes that receiving a Catholic education provides a more fulfilling school experience apart from academics alone. Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School has been built on the belief and teachings of Jesus Christ. It is our duty as educators and Catholics to provide students with an opportunity to develop a spiritual life that will enhance their future success as both citizens of the community and the world.
Under Mr. Porche’s administration, Mercy’s significant growth in enrollment allowed for the vision of new campus expansions to become reality. It is Mercy’s goal to live its mission of prayer, knowledge, and service through its school and community efforts.
Upon Fr. Walsh’s new assignment in July 2013, Fr. Cleo Milano became the fifth pastor of Our Lady of Mercy. Fr. Milano and Mr. Porche continued to plan for the future of our school and parish, and moved forward with the first phase of the Traditions for Tomorrow campaign. May, 2017 marked the day of the groundbreaking of the new Lower School, with construction completed just one year later. On August 9, 2018, the doors of this outstanding facility opened to welcome over 400 students to its 3-Year-Old through second grade classrooms. October, 2018 launched the construction of the new gym planned to begin serving all students in August, 2019.
Sources for this account of the school’s history included the 1997 Our Lady of Mercy Church Pictorial Directory, as well as archival records, booklets, articles, and photos located in the library of the Our Lady of Mercy Parish Activity Center.