Mary Queen of Peace celebrates 25 years
Mary Queen of Peace celebrated its 25th anniversary as a parish in the Archdiocese of New Orleans with a special Mass on June 23.
The parish, on West Causeway Approach in Mandeville, was founded on June 18, 1988, by Archbishop Philip Hannan.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who celebrated the Mass, acknowledged the dedication of the parish’s founding pastor, Father Bill O’Donnell, and the founding “mothers and fathers” of Mary Queen of Peace. Father O’Donnell and several founding members were present for the celebration.
Calling the founding members “roaming Catholics,” the archbishop gave thanks for the growth that moved Mary Queen of Peace from worshipping at Rouquette Lodge (a retirement home in Mandeville) to a shopping center to a multipurpose building on the present campus and, finally, to the permanent church building that was dedicated in 2008.
“This was a little parish with big dreams and a big heart,” the archbishop said, adding, “a history of 25 years is rather short … in your 25 years, you have accomplished a great deal.”
If the history of Mary Queen of Peace were viewed as a mosaic, Archbishop Aymond told the congregation, it would look like this: “Etched in that mosaic is each and every one of you and your name and what you have done to build this up … as God’s church.”
All of this good work, he said, has been done under the leadership of both Father O’Donnell and the present pastor, Father Ronald Calkins, and with the “prayerful support and guidance of Mary Queen of Peace,” who said “yes” to God.
“You have mirrored Mary’s ‘yes’ in the care and concern you show,” he said, mentioning the opening of the school in 1996, the growth of ministries and service, especially outreach to the poor, the partnership with St. Benoit Parish in Haiti, and the response after Katrina.
After Katrina, “you opened wide your hearts and doors” to those who came from St. Bernard and New Orleans. In both the parish and the school, “the strangers were welcomed, and you mirrored Mary’s ‘yes.’”
All of this takes place because of many people, the archbishop said, “but one has to be the leader, the shepherd, the father,” acknowledging Father O’Donnell for laying a strong foundation. He also thanked Father Calkins, who has been pastor since 1995, for building a vibrant community of faith.
“He has shown himself to be a dedicated priest to adults and to the young, (a person) who shows you the image of Mary’s ‘yes’ mirrored in his own life,” he said.
The archbishop concluded by encouraging Mary Queen of Peace not to rest on its laurels but to move toward the future asking three questions: What is the Lord asking today? How can we evangelize and fill the empty chairs at our table? How can we foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life?
“I know you will continue to do great things for the Lord,” Archbishop Aymond said, and Father Calkins and many longtime parishioners agreed.
Involved from start
Elizabeth Bellipanni was a parishioner from the early days of the parish and still is dedicated to visiting the residents of Heritage Manor nursing home in Mandeville.
“I remember asking Father O’Donnell if I could go with him to bring Communion to Heritage Manor,” she said. “I have been going ever since.”
Melanie and Larry Saunders, who were among the original parishioners, remember Rouquette Lodge and what they affectionately called “Our Lady the Shopping Center.” And after 25 years, they are still very much a part of Mary Queen of Peace. Larry is head usher and Melanie teaches in the Parish School of Religion and serves in the parish library. They both look forward to the continued growth of Mary Queen of Peace, which is their faith home.
“It’s the only way to go,” Larry Saunders said.
Litany of thanks
It is the only way to go, he and many added, because of the leadership of Father Calkins, who concluded the Mass on June 23 with a litany of thanks to Archbishop Aymond; Father O’Donnell; Msgr. William Bilinsky, who assists in the parish; Msgr. Wildor Pierre, pastor of St. Benoit in Haiti; Mobile Archbishop Thomas Rodi, Father Calkins’ classmate and friend; the many priests and deacons who took part in the Mass; and the dedicated parishioners of Mary Queen of Peace.
“Our loving God has been faithful and has showered so many blessings upon this community of faith,” Father Calkins said. “We have tried to respond with the same fidelity and the same generosity. … I pray, through the intercession of Mary, that we will be able to continue to do God’s work as we continue to live the Good News every day.”
Mary Queen of Peace will continue celebrating its 25th anniversary throughout the year. For more information, visit www.maryqueenofpeace.org.