Updated at 5 p.m. Wednesday with charges against the suspect.
Music played a big part in a Mass of remembrance for Jamie Schmidt Nov. 20 at St. Anthony of Padua Church in High Ridge — fitting because it played a big part in her contribution as a soprano in the parish choir and because of the consoling words of the songs.
A gunman shot and killed Schmidt in an attack at a Catholic Supply store in west St. Louis County on Nov. 19. Schmidt, 53, of House Springs, was transported to a hospital, where she died later that evening. She was a customer at the store.
Thomas Bruce, 53, of Imperial was charged Nov. 21 with first-degree murder and multiple counts of sodomy, kidnapping, burglary, armed criminal action and tampering with physical evidence. He is being held without a bond.
“When you don’t give me answers as I cry out to you. I will trust, I will trust in you,” were the words of a song, “Trust in You,” sung before Mass began. “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.”
He said she was a prayer partner who prayed for him when he had serious health issues.
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.
Father Sebastian Mundackal, who was pastor of the parish for seven years before being reassigned last year, cited her “tremendous talents” and recalled some humorous moments when she was painting the Gospel symbols in the church and involved in other activities. She helped with ACTS retreats and much more.
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.”
“We are shocked and saddened by the events that occurred at our West County location Monday afternoon,”Catholic Supply stated in a Facebook post. “This was a senseless tragedy. Please join us as we pray for the victims and their families. We appreciate your patience, grace and prayers during this difficult time. Thank you for your continued support.”
County police officers responded to the scene in the 14000 block of Manchester Road at 3:19 p.m. Nov. 19. Police said this appears to be a random attack, with no known connection between the shooting victim and the assailant. Police also have said that the suspect committed a sexual assault and fired his gun at least once inside the store.
St. Louis County Police are seeking information from the public. Anyone with information should call (636) 529-8210; or to remain anonymous, contact CrimeStoppers at 1 (866) 371-TIPS (8477) with any information on the shooting.
“Our hearts go out to the victims of this horrific tragedy at Catholic Supply,” Archbishop Robert J. Carlson shared in a tweet early Monday evening. “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.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, offered his condolences and prayers in a Nov. 21 letter to Archbishop Carlson. "This senseless attack is a painful reminder of how gun violence can tragically alter the lives of those so precious to us," he wrote. "The bishops have continually expressed support for reducing gun violence as it reflects the Church’s moral teaching on respect for all life at all stages. It is essential for us to be engaged in efforts that help build a culture of life."
Classes at Christ Prince of Peace School in Manchester were canceled on Nov. 20 as a precaution. The school is located about a half-mile from the store. Pastor Father Chris Dunlap requested police presence on campus Monday afternoon, and evening activities, including the Parish School of Religion, were canceled.
“We’re praying for the victims in this senseless tragedy, especially the woman who died and her family,” Father Dunlap said. “We’re also praying for the Catholic Supply family.”
Catholic Supply has said that all three of its locations will be closed on Nov. 20 to give staff time to be with their families. The West County location will remain closed while the police investigation continues. The other locations, including the main store in south St. Louis and in O’Fallon, Mo. plan to reopen on Nov. 21 with additional security presence.