By Debbie Shelley | The Catholic Commentator

The Catholic Commentator  

When completed, the Garden of Peace and Memorial Columbarium under construction at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Baton Rouge will become an extension of the church’s vibrant prayer life in the center of bustling activity.  

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Our Lady of Mercy Church in Baton Rouge is currently constructing its Garden of Peace Memorial and Columbarium to provide a sacred place of rest for its parishioners and local community. Photos by Debbie Shelley | The Catholic Commentator 


The community identified the need for the garden in 2015 as part of OLM’s Traditions for Tomorrow master campaign for the future development of its church and school, said Randy Arabie, administrator, and Michelle Schroeder, columbarium and stewardship coordinator.  

A state-of-the-art lower elementary school and gym were completed first to accommodate the school’s growing enrollment.  

“With those buildings done, it was decided to fulfill our mission of providing a new Catholic burial location to serve the diocese,” said Schroeder. 

The Garden of Peace and Memorial Columbarium is self-funding through sales of niches and uses no TFT funds for construction or maintenance, emphasized Schroeder and Arabie.  

Schroeder noted that the Catholic Church eliminated its prohibition against cremation in 1963.  

As the popularity of cremation among Catholics has grown, in 2016 the church updated its instructions on how to handle a person’s cremated remains in “Ad resurgendum cum Christo” (“To Rise With Christ”). The church emphasized that the remains are to be treated with respect and in accordance to the church’s belief in the paschal mystery and resurrection from the dead.  

It specifically prohibits the scattering of ashes </span id=”8″>or keeping them at home.  

The church requires cremated remains be either buried in a sacred place, in the ground in a cemetery or placed in a mausoleum or columbarium.  

“The church realized with the increased preference for cremation it was desirable to have a place suitable to intern cremains in a dignified way, to treat cremains the same way you would treat the body,” said Arabie. </span id=”11″>

It also fills a need for clergy and the faithful by making it more convenient to have the interment on church grounds.  

The Columbarium Garden of Peace will cover 1.44 acres at OLOM. 

There will be a total of 1,310 niches that can each hold two urns. The design of the columbarium will allow for additional niches to be added as the need grows, according to Arabie  

The design of the columbarium garden is cruciform, he said.  

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Construction is ongoing on the Our Lady of Mercy Church in Baton Rouge Garden of Peace Memorial and Columbarium. 


Four quadrants with sidewalks around a central pavilion where committal services may be held are planned. Each quadrant will be named after the Gospel writers. There are two entrance gates in the St. Matthew and St. Mark areas.  

The St. John and St. Luke areas will have a mosaic and water feature.  

One of the two large artwork features will be a “Christ wall” with Christ as the good shepherd in his glorified body to remind people of the resurrection. The artist is also incorporating unique Louisiana features, such as cypress tree branches coming into the pastoral scene.  

“It will be a Cajun heaven,” mused Arabie.  

In keeping with the oak tree-filled landscape of OLOM, there will also be oak trees surrounding the perimeter of the garden, he said.  

Also planned is a mosaic wall featuring Madonna and the Christ Child, as the Blessed Mother is the patron saint of the parish and should provide comfort for families grieving the loss of a child, Arabie said.  

The design and artwork of the columbarium garden will not only provide a place of worship but will also be educational about the Catholic faith, he said, adding there was an “overwhelmingly positive” response to the garden, with 220 niches sold in a pre-construction sales effort. Because the costs of cremation are much lower than a traditional burial it’s appealing to people, Arabie said.  

Perhaps most importantly, the columbarium garden will ensure that the memories of the departed will continue on through the church.  

“It’s right by the adoration chapel, an extension of the prayer from adoration,” Arabie said. “But it will also be surrounded by the elementary school carpool lane. So it will be a reverent burial place but it will also be surrounded by our daily life.”  

Schroeder said families who have purchased niches have expressed their appreciation that the final resting place for their earthly life will be on the parish’s property.  

“People will be reminded of the beautiful souls that have left us and will be offering innumerable prayers for all of them. Whether the family members of the deceased live here or not, the deceased will never be isolated or out of mind, because they will be right here with us,” said Schroeder.  

Those wanting more information about the niches can email Schroeder at or call her at 225-926-1883.