A History of Our Lady of Mercy Parish
Becoming a Parish
On June 21, 1947, Archbishop Rummel formally elevated Mother of Mercy Mission to the status of a parish and renamed it Our Lady of Mercy Parish. He named Father Louis E. Marionneaux as its founding pastor effective July 1, 1947. In four years, the church’s population had grown to more than 700 families.
Father Marionneaux was born in the small town of Indian Village, Louisiana, about five miles west of Plaquemine. He lived a frugal life and accommodated himself to the circumstances of this life. He was truly a man of God and never seemed to develop a desire for material things. His pastoral assignments before coming to Our Lady of Mercy were chaplaincies at Hope Haven Boys’ Home in Marrero, Louisiana, and at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola. Perhaps it was his experience at Hope Haven and Angola that accounted for his wonderful empathy for those who had been dealt less than a fair share of life’s goodness. In fact, Father Marionneaux felt rather impatient with parishioners who had never experienced the sort of problems his former charges had dealt with for most of their lives. For quite a while, prisoners who had been discharged from Angola would beat a path to Father Marionneaux’s rectory where they were certain of a sympathetic ear and a handout to help them on their way.
When Mercy’s founding pastor assumed his duties on July 1, 1947, he found that an enthusiastic group of parishioners had already embarked on fund-raising campaigns and started making plans for the new parish. A surplus army chapel at Harding Field (Ryan Airport) was procured for the new church building. The chapel, which would seat only 450, was dismantled, moved and raised on the church property. The work of refurbishing and equipping the 63 x 80 foot building was done by parish volunteers. The 50- year-old altar was moved from the mission chapel to the parish church and an old locomotive bell was mounted in the steeple to call the faithful to church.
Two other surplus army buildings were purchased from Camp Claiborne in Alexandria, Louisiana. The smaller one, 25 x 46 feet, was placed behind the church and used as the rectory. Father Marionneaux called the austere domicile “a modest and comfortable home.” He lived there until 1961 when Mercy’s second rectory, formerly a private home, was established across the street from the church. The other army building, which was 25 x 93 feet, was placed just north of the church and rectory and was converted into a hall-cafeteria. The three buildings were used until 1964 when they were demolished to accommodate the construction of a new church parking lot.
The first church was dedicated on August 15, 1948, by Archbishop Rummel. During the solemn high mass, Father Marionneaux expressed his gratitude to his devoted parishioners for their help in establishing “a memorial to those who made the supreme sacrifice in the war.” The festivities concluded with an afternoon ball game in Mercy’s new ballpark.