A History of Our Lady of Mercy Parish
Building a School
By early 1953 Mercy was ready to break ground for the construction of the first permanent building for the parish; a parochial school. When it opened in September 1953, the school garnered national attention as being the only Catholic school with an all-lay faculty. It was later to be the first school to have a class for physically challenged children.
Mrs. Hazel Blanchard was named principal and school opened with 174 students m grades first through fourth. While the first school building was under construction, temporary quarters were found for the classrooms and the Boy Scout Hut. The next spring the permanent school was available. The formal dedication of the school was on May 2, 1954. The Our Lady of Mercy School had eight classrooms, an office, teachers’ lounge, first aid and supply rooms, and two basements. Two other buildings were later added increasing the number of classrooms to 20. Father Marionneaux envisioned a school where the children could learn the values of church and family, while getting a good solid foundation for their secondary and college education.
Pope Pius XII bestowed the title of Papal Chamberlain on Father Marionneaux on December 14, 1958 for his untiring work in organizing Our Lady of Mercy Parish. Five years later, Pope Paul VI elevated him to the rank of Domestic Prelate. With characteristic humility, Father Marionneaux announced this second honor to the parishioners thus: “Pope Paul VI has seen fit to bestow upon your pastor the honor of Domestic Prelate with the title of Right Reverend Monsignor. Investiture will take place at 7 p.m. next Sunday in St. Joseph Cathedral. You are invited to attend.” Ever brief and to the point!
As the area continued to grow, so did the number of Our Lady of Mercy parishioners. By 1952, about 1200 people were attending one of the four masses being celebrated each Sunday. A priest from Hope Haven or from St. Joseph’s Abbey came each weekend to assist Father Marionneaux with the masses.
Ground breaking for a new church/classroom building took place November 21, 1955. The 15,500-square foot structure included a church/classroom with a capacity for 1,100 worshipers and each side of the church building would have three classrooms. Long range plans for the building called for it to be converted to a gym-auditorium when a permanent church was constructed. Archbishop Rummel dedicated the church/school on September 24, 1956.