By Joseph Kenny and Jennifer Brinker | Catholic News Service
HIGH RIDGE, Mo. (CNS) — Music played a big part in a Mass of remembrance for Jamie Schmidt Nov. 20 at St. Anthony of Padua Church in High Ridge, which was fitting because it had played a big part in her contribution as a soprano in the parish choir and because words of the songs were consoling.
Schmidt, 53, died late Nov. 19, the victim of a shooting at a Catholic Supply store in west St. Louis County earlier that day. She was transported to a hospital, where she died later that evening.
Police said she was a customer at the store when a gunman entered the Catholic goods store, sexually assaulted several women and shot Schmidt. As of late Nov. 21, a 53-year-old male “person of interest” in was in custody in connection with the attack.
Before Mass began at St. Anthony of Padua Church, the faithful sang, “When you don’t give me answers as I cry out to you. I will trust, I will trust in you,” from the song “Trust in You.” “Let me be singing when the evening comes,” the choir sang later in the Mass.
A somber tone set in as two priests, a deacon and others gathered before processing into church. A candle bearer shed a few tears. But the Mass had a mostly different tone as Schmidt was remembered as a pillar of the parish and an inspiring Catholic.
Father John Reiker, parish pastor and celebrant of the Mass, said afterward that “the prayer tonight healed hearts and brought people closer together and closer to Our Lord. You can feel it. You can feel the power of Jesus here.”
At the start of Mass, he thanked people for “all the love pouring out,” adding that “the best way to show our love is to pray with and for each other. We are all going to miss Jamie so much.”
In the homily, Father Reiker said that “our hearts are broken, ripped apart” by the senseless tragedy. It’s impossible to comprehend, he said, but Jesus, who also died in a horrible way, “is with us right now” and “gives us each other to hold onto.”
The parish is a “small church with a big heart,” he said, and “through this sadness may our heart grow even bigger.”
Walking into church before Mass, Dean Stegmann Sr., called Schmidt “a wonderful person with the most beautiful soprano voice I’ve ever heard.” she was a prayer partner who prayed for him when he had serious health issues, Stegmann told the St. Louis Review, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
Cathy Gansmann said her fellow parishioner was “a lovely soul, so sweet, so unassuming. It’s a great loss for this community. We pray for her family.”
Though Tina Sheppard has been a parishioner at St. Anthony only a short time, she saw the love Schmidt had and how “she set an example for me.”
Several people pointed to Schmidt’s artistic talents, represented by the extensive art she created on the walls of the church.
Deacon Jim G’Sell, in between consoling and hugging parishioners after Mass, said Schmidt was so unassuming that “you could say these paintings are so beautiful and she would never say she did them. Her faith was strong and solid and simple too. This parish will mourn for a long time.”
She was married to her high school sweetheart and had three children. The family said in a statement that they are “heartbroken as we try to accept and understand this terrible tragedy. We ask for prayers for peace and that the killer is caught before he hurts anyone else.” A GoFundMe account has been established to help with funeral expenses.
Her husband, Gregg Schmidt, also posted on Facebook: “I still don’t know how to feel yet. I do know one thing for sure. Hug your friends and family and tell them you love them every time you get the chance. I didn’t get to say goodbye and that hurts pretty bad. She was my angel, my partner, my best friend and the love of my life. I’m sorry if you never got to hear her sing recently because it gave me chills.”
In an early evening tweet Nov. 19, St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson said: “Our hearts go out to the victims of this horrific tragedy at Catholic Supply. We are praying for these victims. … We join with civil authorities asking for the community’s assistance in apprehending the culprit of this crime.”
Archbishop Carlson also asked all parishes in the archdiocese to offer prayers at Masses this weekend for the victims of the shooting and for an end to all forms of violence everywhere. – – – Kenny and Brinker are staff writers at the St. Louis Review and Catholic St. Louis, publications of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.