By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator 

“Go Blue Jays!” roared students of Our Lady of Mercy School in Baton Rouge spurred on by an enthusiastic OLOM pastor Father Cleo Milano during their first glimpse of the new school gym a pep rally on Friday, Sept. 13. 


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Father Cleo Milano, pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Church in Baton Rouge, spurs on the OLOM students to cheer and shout during a pep rally in which the students got their first look at their new gym. Photos by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator 


Students’ eyes popped open and they squealed with glee as they walked in the door. Once seated, the rumbling of feet pounding on the bleachers ricocheted around the facility and students pumped their arms in the air and shouted and pointed to their friends.  

“It’s going to be a loud gym,” laughed principal Chris Porche. “To see all of our kiddos in here totally enjoying themselves and to see what it (the gym) has come to be is amazing.” 

The gym has been 50 years in the making, according to Father Milano.  

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OLOM students were overjoyed when their eyes first took in their new gym. 


OLOM School began construction of the $6 million gym and sportsplex as part of its 15- to 20-year campus master plan adopted in August 2015. The master plan is financed through the Traditions for Tomorrow campaign, launched in 2016 to finance the master plan.  

Father Milano said the facility completes phase one of the OLOM master plan.  

Porche said the facility provides additional space for physical education on rainy days and accommodates more practice for boys’ and girls’ basketball teams, allowing students to get home earlier.  

The 15,243- square-foot gym will accommodate 500 spectators for a basketball game. It will be the second gym at the school.  

“I think it’s great,” fifth-grader James Boyle said of the new facility. “I’m really glad for the new court. It’s definitely way better than the past gym. I can’t wait to play (here). It should be really fun.”  

The old gym, built in 1955 as the main worship space for the church and turned into a gym in 1975, will be renovated into a performing arts center and practice gym. </span id=”10″>

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The beautiful gym floor, which features the OLOM Blue Jay logo in the middle, will allow more space for basketball practices and PE classes. 


Father Milano said the new gym incorporates things from the church, “which is the source of all we do.”  

That includes the painted crucifix on the back wall, which mirrors the crucifix on the wall in the church, and the Marian-featured Our Lady of Mercy Church logo on the floor at the gym entrance tower, which is patterned after the church’s belltower.  

“From one end of Marquette (Street) to the other we are embraced by the love of God,” Father Milano said.  

OLOM parish administrator Randy Arabie agreed.  

“It’s a beautiful facility where we can host parish-wide events,” he said. “It’s important to us that it be a Catholic facility as well as an athletic facility.”  

OLOM hosted an open house at the gym for the community on Sept. 22.  

“I think it’s cool,” fifth grader Davis Wolfe said as his youthful eyes scanned the gym. “I want to make as many baskets as I can. I hope everyone enjoys it when they come see it.”  

Samantha O’Brien, a sixth grader, said, “It’s so beautiful, I love the blue jay in the middle (of the court).” 

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The gym contains an office with a view of the court.