A visit with our bishop

Always on Sunday 

St. Martin School: "bursting with enthusiaism"

Getting on "the Energy Bus" 


By Jay Nies

“Open wide the doors to Christ!”

Adult volunteers at St. Martin School in St. Martins are putting St. John Paul II’s words into practice, opening doors and greeting the students with a smile each morning. 

“The kids — you can see their excitement every day,” said Father Edwin A. Schmidt, pastor of St. Martin parish. “They’re looking forward to seeing who’s opening the doors and who’s saying good morning to them.”  

It’s one of many ways St. Martin parishioners acknowledge the living, active presence of Christ in their school and its students. 

“What we’re after is three smiles for every child before they reach the classroom,” stated Eddie Mulholland, the school’s new principal.

Research has shown that if a child gets three sincere smiles before entering his first class, the day in all likelihood will be successful, said Mr. Mulholland. 

“I think it’s working,” he stated. “It’s been a beautiful experience so far.”

Parishioner Jeff Brondel organizes and schedules the volunteers, which on the first day included a cow from the local Chick-fil-A restaurant.

Students see other volunteers in the lunchroom each day, distributing meals and pouring water at the tables.

“The parish as a whole embraces and takes ownership of the school,” observed parish council president Brian Francka, a St. Martin School alumn and father of two St. Martin students and of two graduates. 

                                                                                             “210 young disciples”

Building on decades of leadership and accomplishments of Fr. Schmidt and recently retired principal Cathy Wolters, St. Martin School is bursting with faith-filled enthusiasm.

These are happy people.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” said Mr. Francka. “I think Catholic education should be one of our top priorities, and it should start at an early age.

“We have that here,” he said.

Mr. Mulholland refers to faculty members as educators and to students as disciples. 

“We have 210 young disciples here!” he said. “Our educators aren’t just teachers, because they work together with other educators to bring about an educated response.”

That is to say, students demonstrate what they have learned by putting it into practice. 

“Look at one of God’s greatest creations!” proclaims a sign in a hallway near the school entrance.

The sign is above a mirror. 

                                                                                             The Energy Bus

“Mr. Mulholland has us all taking a ride on the Energy Bus,” stated school board vice president Karen Ehmke, mother of two St. Martin students and of one graduate. 

The principal has been passing around copies of The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy, by Jon Gordon.

The book encourages readers to draw on their own positive energy in order to recognize what’s possible and accomplish good things. 

“When you bring out the best in others, you can’t help but bring out the best in yourself,” the author states.

Parish council and school board members, faculty, staff and parents have been reading the book and passing it around.

“Eddie highlighted the sections he wanted me to pay particularly close attention to,” Fr. Schmidt noted.

The students discussed a children’s edition of the book near the beginning of the school year.

“It’s contagious,” said Mrs. Ehmke. “And now my kids are talking about it.” 

                                                                                              “I’ll take care of that”

When runoff from a misplaced downspout threatened structural damage to the school building, St. Martin parishioners stepped up to fix the problem.

Tons of concrete were removed, trenches were dug, pipes were installed, new concrete was poured and a classroom was restored in time for the first day of school.  

“That’s part of the power of this place: There’s always someone standing up to say, ‘I’ll take care of that.’” said Mr. Mulholland.

Similarly, the principal’s concerns about the computer lab’s lack of functionality helped mobilize another team of can-do communicants.

With help from local businesses, individual donors and the Knights of Columbus, parish property manager Travis Hoskins and volunteers spent hundreds of hours this summer converting the technological hodgepodge into an organized, state-of-the-art learning space. 

“These are folks in the parish who appreciate what the school does for the community,” said Mr. Mulholland. “They love what we have and want to help us keep making it better.” 

                                                                                              Room to grow

The St. Martin all-day pre-kindergarten program, which follows a Catholic-school curriculum, is now in its second year. 

The school board has taken keen interest in the program, because it draws families into the school and allows children’s formal religious training to start at a younger age.

Six years ago, the parish invested $2.4 million in additions and renovations to the school. 

The 4,800-square-foot addition meant seven new classrooms, offices, and dedicated rooms for a science lab, library, computer lab, music room, and teachers’ work space.

Other areas, including the gym, were made like new. 

Since then, the school has built up its art program, started a band program, and invested in the fastest-growing grade-school sport: archery. 


“You know, the expense to operate a school like this is tremendous,” noted Mr. Francka. “But the rewards we get out of it are priceless.” 

St. Martin Home and School Association president and parish finance council chairwoman Janet Roling, who has three children at St. Martin, believes Catholic schools could be the Church’s greatest hope. 

“We’re working with families to build a strong Catholic faith and encourage and promote and continue that faith throughout these children’s lives,” she said. “And having it right here in our community only enhances and strengthens that.” 

She was amazed this past spring to see how many parishioners — adults who have children in the school, and many who do not — helped out with the Home and School Lenten fish fries.

Proceeds benefitted the school. 

“It all works together,” said Mrs. Roling. “We can’t run this school without all of our parishioners.”

“I think the parish and school are stronger because of each other,” Mrs. Ehmke asserted. “The school helps build up the parish, and the parish keeps the school going. They feed off of each other.”

Mr. Francka noted that Fr. Schmidt spends a lot of time in the school.

“He knows all of the kids’ names because he’s there from the day they walk into school to the day they graduate.”

“I tell people, ‘Fr. Ed’ is the man who wears Jesus’ sandals, and we’re some of the luckiest people around,” said Mr. Mulholland. 


St. Martin School board president Jason Thompson came into the Church through the Rite of Christian Imitation of Adults four years ago.

His son, Sam, was in second grade and getting ready to receive his First Holy Communion.

“He made me promise that we’d be able to go to Communion together,” Mr. Thompson recalled. 

His involvement at school started with coaching his daughter’s basketball team. 

Before long, he was helping repair the gym floor. 

“There are people here who are very good at helping you volunteer!” said Mr. Thompson. “I don’t really know how to explain it, but you come over to do one thing, and the next thing you know, you’re chairman of a committee.”

Mrs. Ehmke marvels at the faith of her daughter, who’s now a sophomore at Helias Catholic High School in Jefferson City. 

“We taught her at home, but she also got to pray here at school every day,” said Mrs. Ehmke. “She got to talk about God every day.”  

Mrs. Roling said it’s amazing to have her children come home and sing songs about Jesus. 

“That’s part of their life every day because they’re hearing about it at school,” she said. 

Mr. Mulholland believes the school’s music program is “evangelized and energized.”

Students down the hall could be heard practicing “Sanctuary,” which they now sing before Communion at Mass: “Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for You.” 

                                                                                                    Reaping the benefits

Mr. Francka and his wife Cathy met each other as students at St. Martin School.

He believes the commitment to educating and instilling the faith in young people has solidified over time.

So has the level of enthusiasm. 

“It’s phenomenal,” he said. “It’s just through the roof. 

“You can see it in the kids,” he stated. “They’re excited to get up and go to school in the morning. They’re excited to come home and tell you what they learned at school.

“And it’s all centered on Jesus,” he said. “That’s something I hope never changes.”

He talked about the excellent educators, some who were there when he was a student. 

“They could all be making more money teaching somewhere else,” he noted. “But they’ve chosen to make sacrifices to stay here, and we’re reaping the benefits.”

“I’m very excited,” said Mr. Mulholland. “I think we’re all on the same bus!”


"Home at last!"

Edina parishoners return to restored church after 2013 blaze 

"What every parent needs to know---but doesn't"

October 2nd event for parents of junior high and high school students


by Jay Nies

The founders of a local project that offers teens and young adults an online forum for healthy decision-making have added a group of speakers to its arsenal. 

Their goal is to visit local schools, warning students of the perils of substance abuse and other dangers they will likely encounter. 

But the speakers want to talk to parents first. 

The Anne Marie Project (LearnTalkLive.com) will hold a forum titled “What Every Parent Needs to Know ... But Doesn’t!” from 7-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 2, in the Cathedral of St. Joseph Undercroft in Jefferson City.

“Speakers will talk frankly with parents about today’s youth culture and how they can be more in tune with what their children are up against, and give them some place to go,” said Julie Gramlich, the Anne Marie Project’s founder. 

Admission is free. Parents are invited and encouraged to attend. 

Speakers will include: 

  •Jim Marshall, founder of Cody’s Gift, with a message about drug awareness, prevention and education. 

 A retired high school teacher of 30 years and a father who tried to resuscitate his son from a drug overdose, Mr. Marshall knows how to deliver a powerful message that will have a lasting impact on students. 

  •Paul Masek (www.stirringitup.org), founder and director of the REAP Team Catholic youth reatreat ministry in St. Louis (www.reapteam.org), blogger and author of Stirring It Up, Vol. 1 and 2. 

  Mr. Masek has been presenting retreats to young people of all ages for over 25 years through his work with the REAP Team, a ministry of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. 

  •Rachel Allen, chastity educator for the REAP Team. 

Ms. Allen spends most of her time talking to teenagers about love, sex, dating and relationships, both on REAP retreats and as a volunteer Core Team member at her parish.

She published her first book earlier this year: The Next Step: A Catholic Teen’s Guide to Surviving High School. 

  •Mike Weiland, director of The Crossroads Program, considered by many to be the top drug and alcohol treatment center for adolescents and young adults in Missouri. 

Mr. Weiland will talk about his personal experience of using drugs and alcohol to cope with his issues when he was a teenager. 

                                                                                        Never alone

The Anne Marie Project is a registered nonprofit agency that oversees and solicits content for the LearnTalkLive website and Facebook page for teens and young adults. 

Through a strong faith perspective, website contributors address issues that are of concern to young people, such as dating, relationships, body image, stress, substance-abuse, depression and spirituality.

The project is named for a young woman who wanted to help her friends and wound up succumbing to their destructive lifestyle because she didn’t have the right kind of adult support. 

Mrs. Gramlich said gathering a coalition of speakers will increase the Anne Marie Project’s outreach and help more young people develop healthy coping skills and make good decisions.

The organization is working with Grace Counseling to provide licensed counselors to students who don’t feel like they have anyone to talk to or confide in. 

Speakers have given presentations to junior high students at several local grade schools and to health class students and “Frosh Camp” participants at Helias Catholic High School. 

Another school is hosting an in-service for its teaching staff to learn how to recognize warning signs of students who may be in trouble. 

“We’ll talk to students, parents and teachers,” said Mrs. Gramlich. “Wherever we can be, that’s where we want to be to make a difference.”

Mrs. Gramlich said the main purpose of the Anne Marie Project is to help young people find hope. 

“We want young people to know that even though they might have made some bad decisions, there’s still a lot of hope for them to start over and change for the better,” she stated. 

                                                                                         Startling statistics

Mrs. Gramlich said studies show that the average age a young person begins experimenting with alcohol is age 12 — while he or she is in sixth grade. 

More than 45 percent of teens have used marijuana before they graduate high school, she said. 

“We want to help people in the community see that these problems are real and help young people realize they’re not alone and that they don’t have to do these things,” said Mrs. Gramlich.

She started the Anne Marie Project to help young people see the joy of God and understand that He loves them, she said.

“As adults in the Catholic faith, we must be willing and able to help our children and young people maneuver through issues contrary to the Catholic faith that are widespread in the culture in which they live,” stated Father Joseph S. Corel, diocesan vocation director and interim director of Catholic schools. 

He noted that the Anne Marie Project, through LearnTalkLive, provides a “safe place for young people to go for inspirational reading written by their peers and those who care about the faith life of young people.”

The Catholic School Office approves of the philosophy of the Anne Marie Project — the online resources as well as efforts to secure inspirational speakers to help "promote the values in line with the Church and help those who struggle find the Lord Jesus Christ in the sacraments in His Church,” Fr. Corel stated. 

Mrs. Gramlich noted that the Anne Marie Project is a 501c3 nonprofit organization with a board of directors. 

Contributions are tax-deductible and  gratefully accepted.

Contact Mrs. Gramlich at (573) 644-4965 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. '; document.write(''); document.write(addy_text63270); document.write('<\/a>'); //-->\n This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information about the Oct. 2 presentation or the Anne Marie Project. 



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