Our story began on June 18, 1988, when Archbishop Philip M. Hannan created the newest parish in the Archdiocese of New Orleans and named it Mary, Queen of Peace, a Catholic community set among the pretty pines of Mandeville that still bring so many to the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.
This new parish started small, but it started off with people of faith and never stopped growing. With our first pastor, the Rev. William O’Donnell, we began to worship at Rouquette Lodge and before long moved to a space in the Turtle Creek Shopping Center on Highway 22.
The Rev. Ronald L. Calkins was appointed as the second pastor in July 1995. Not long after his arrival, our story added a new chapter when we moved into a new building on West Causeway Approach. The building included worship space, offices and classrooms.
The church, which seated about 500 people, was blessed in January 1996 by Archbishop Francis B. Schulte. It was in this new home, with room to grow, that our parish family blossomed. As families continued to flock to our welcoming parish, it became apparent that not only would we need a new church, but that we would also need an elementary school. It was announced in the spring of 1996 that Mary, Queen of Peace Catholic School would open that fall to grades Kindergarten through second. With Mrs. Rhonda Parenton as its first principal, the school started in the church building with about 30 students. But like the parish it serves, the little school with big dreams grew quickly. In 1998, the new school building opened to grades pre-K through fourth with a new principal, Dr. Thomas Spranley.
With Dr. Jan Daniel Lancaster as principal, the school continued to blossom, and plans were made for a new classroom building to replace the modular classrooms that were added after Katrina. Under the leadership of Principal Sybil Skansi, the new classroom building was blessed by Archbishop Gregory Aymond on September 5, 2012.
Hurricane Katrina is, of course, a big part of our story. The storm that hit on August 29, 2005, left our church building unscathed but left our community ever changed. On the Saturday after Katrina, in a church building without power but filled with prayer, a small congregation gathered to celebrate Mass. By the following weekend, hundreds came to Mary, Queen of Peace, many of them seeking refuge from the devastated areas of St. Bernard and New Orleans. As a parish known for its warm welcome, we embraced them all, those who came to stay and those who needed a temporary place to call home. We offered places to live; we opened “Mary’s Market” to provide necessities; we offered dispersed congregations from St. Bernard a chance to celebrate Mass here; and mostly, we offered love and hope, fed by our faith.
Many of these new families were looking for a Catholic school for their children, and our school family responded. With the dedication and support of our principal, faculty, staff and parents, the school more than doubled in size in one year.
Our newest chapter at Mary, Queen of Peace includes our beautiful new church building, which was dedicated by Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes on October 5, 2008, and the Parish Center, which formerly housed our church and now is home to a parish hall, offices, classrooms, a child-care room and a youth room.