A History of Our Lady of Mercy Parish
Era of Aggiornamento
The second event was the Second Vatican Council convened by Pope John XXIII October 11, 1962. Although Pope John died before the work of the Council was completed, Pope Paul VI proceeded with the promulgation and gradual implementation of the council’s decrees. This introduced a far-reaching and dramatic renaissance in the life and spirit of the Church, which ultimately engendered a profound impact upon the laity and clergy of Our Lady of Mercy.
The era of aggiornamento inaugurated by Pope Paul XXIII in 1962 called for the “opening of the church windows to the fresh air of change.” This gentle admonition included not only the modernization of the liturgy, but encompassed significant departures from the traditional architecture of the church.
Less than two years after Vatican Council II, Father Andrew Frey was assigned to Our Lady of Mercy as its second pastor on March 1, 1964. Monsignor Marionneaux was assigned to St. Gabriel Parish after 17 years of hard work establishing Our Lady of Mercy Parish. Unlike Father Marionneaux, Father Frey grew up in New Orleans, the child of affluent parents and the beneficiary of many material advantages. He grew into manhood as a modest, reserved, rather shy person, who seemed to be made uncomfortable by the honors bestowed upon him.
Father Frey was no stranger to Our Lady of Mercy since he had lived at Mercy while establishing St. Thomas More as a parish. His arrival as pastor of Our Lady of Mercy ushered in an era of action and achievement, and it truly represented the saying “no rest for the weary.” He had an auspicious record of organization, construction and spiritual activity at St. Thomas More, which prepared him well for the task ahead at Our Lady of Mercy.
Upon Father Frey’s “return” to Mercy, it became apparent that a tremendous amount of work had to be clone. He launched a two-prong program: implementation of Vatican Council II directives with regard to liturgical ceremonies as well as related physical changes in the sanctuary of the church, and the continuation of projects instituted by Monsignor Marionneaux while expanding and upgrading all facilities to meet the precipitous and continuing growth of the parish.
Drawing upon the considerable expertise, talent, counsel, financial support and labor contributed by the parishioners, faculty and assistant pastors, Father Frey directed a series of outstanding changes and improvements to the church and school. At this time in 1964, Marquette Street was a dirt road. The first order of business was to get the city to blacktop the road and put in gutters and sidewalks. The next project was to build covered walkways between the various buildings so that children could travel from one to the other in inclement weather.
In addition to educating Our Lady of Mercy’s children in a Catholic school, the parish took on the responsibility of teaching the faith to those children who attended public school. Religion classes were taught on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons to children in grades first through sixth, and once a week to students in grades seventh through twelfth. Theology classes for laywomen and men were open to Mercy parishioners who desired instruction every Sunday morning. While parents attended the 9:00 am Mass, their younger children learned some of the basics of the Catholic religion. The parish established a lending library of religious and sectarian books, which was sponsored by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine and the Ushers Guild. At Father Frey’s 25th anniversary celebration of ordination in 1971, Bishop Tracy announced that Pope Paul VI had elevated Mercy’s pastor to a monsignor because of his outstanding accomplishment in the church.
Also on June 25, 1971 Our Lady of Mercy Parish had its 25th anniversary. The parishioners celebrated with an all-day affair in marking this parish milestone. The day started with informal exhibits of parish life and a slide presentation depicting the 25-year history of the parish. At noon, a Jubilee Mass was presided over by Bishop Tracy with Monsignor Frey and Monsignor Marionneaux concelebrating. A parish fair, a popular parish activity for 25 years was held in the afternoon along with an historical pageant, novelty acts and songs. The highlight of the afternoon’s festivities was the burning of the parish mortgage.
Our Lady of Mercy’s record of growth and sound foundation prepared the parish well for the next 25 years. The programs initiated and implemented in the post-war years, and aggressively expanded during the post-Vatican II era, created an impetus, which would carry the parish to even greater heights of excellence.