History and Accreditation
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.
With Fr. Walsh’s new assignment in July 2013, Fr. Cleo Milano became the fifth pastor at Our Lady of Mercy. Fr. Milano and Mr. Moscona remained committed to the strong partnership built between the parish church and school. The One Mercy project, the development of a new parish logo uniting the church and school, was launched in December of 2013. In the spring of 2016, the parish launched the Traditions for Tomorrow capital campaign to build a new gym and additional classrooms for the ECC. Fr. Milano appointed Mr. Chris Porche principal in January 2017. Under his leadership, the new Lower School was completed and opened its doors in August of 2018, welcoming 430 students to our Little Saints through second grade classrooms. This lower school houses 21 classrooms in addition to an art room, computer lab, innovation lab, conference room, cafeteria and 6 additional offices. Designed with the school’s youngest learners in mind, this state-of-the-art facility will beautifully mark the beginning of educational journeys for future generations of Blue Jays.
The long-awaited dream of building a premiere athletic facility became reality in the Fall of 2019, when the new gymnasium was completed. Physical education classes and athletic events began taking place in a facility created equally as beautiful in form as function. The completion of the new gym paved the path towards transforming the existing gym into an Arts Center to serve band, choir and art students.
The school’s history must include its outstanding operation during a world-wide pandemic in the Spring of 2020. The unprecedented challenges presented by Covid-19 were faced boldly by administrators, faculty and staff to ensure learning would continue for the students of Our Lady of Mercy. The incredible technology plan was surpassed only by its implementation when the educational world was transformed into a teacher assisted online learning platform. Students transitioned to this platform within a week and the 2019-20 school year ended quite successfully. Classes resumed in August of 2020 with students on campus, during a time that schools across the world remained closed and unprepared for such challenges.
In May of 2022 Mr. Porche retired as principal and Ms. Allyson LaBorde was named principal beginning in June 2022. Ms. LaBorde and her strong team of administrators and faculty members remain dedicated to the school’s mission of providing foundations for a lifetime of prayer, knowledge and service. Under their guidance, students are led to greatness spiritually, academically and socially.
Under the loving protection of our patroness Our Lady of Mercy, we share the school’s history with pride and anticipate many years of spiritual and academic excellence..
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.