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Teen church music director

Ask anyone at St. Ignatius of Loyola Church in Lowell about Olivia H. LeBlanc’s musical talent and you’re likely to hear a chorus of praise for the volunteer music director.
 
“She has a wonderful voice, and we are lucky to have her” to lead the music at Mass, commented parishioner Gail Sicotte.
 
“Music makes the Mass more spiritual. We’re lucky to have her,” echoed parishioner Anne Cote.
 
Besides her musical talent and her dedication to parish music ministry, what makes Olivia noteworthy is her age: She is 17.
 
“It’s excellent to have someone that young who is willing to commit herself” to leading music on Sundays and holy days, commented Father Roger Charbonneau, a senior priest of the Diocese of Burlington who celebrates Sunday Masses at St. Ignatius Church. “I don’t think we would have music without her” because of the small size and older membership of the church.
 
The daughter of Andre and Sara LeBlanc has been a member of St. Ignatius Church all her life, and she enjoys attending Mass. “I feel peace after I’ve been,” she commented.
 
A couple years ago she was asked to take responsibility for music at Mass when the previous music director left, and at first she hesitated. “I was nervous,” she said. But after praying about it and realizing that her participation in theater and chorus productions would help her in the church role, she accepted.
 
“It feels good to share that gift from God,” Olivia said. “We need to share our gifts to build up the Church.”
 
Entering her senior year at Lake Region Union High School in Orleans, the Lowell resident – a soprano – sings in the school chorus, Select Chorus and Treble Ensemble. She participates in drama productions and throws the shot put and discus on the track and field team.
 
Olivia also plays the flute in the school concert band and the saxophone in the jazz band. In addition, she plays the clarinet, some keyboard and a bit of trumpet.
 
“Music is relaxing,” she said. And the songs at church “are prayers” that relax her and help her feel closer to God.
 
As church music director, she selects the songs that will be sung – sans organ accompaniment. She studies the readings that will be used at the Mass – “you have to understand them” – then makes her selections for the entrance, offertory, communion and recessional songs, which she often begins at Mass with a note from a pitch pipe “so I know what key the song is in.”
 
“Music brings more life to Mass,” Olivia said, adding that music is important to young people. She would like to see more of them at church and encourages parents to take them.
 
Though she does not have a favorite liturgical composer, she is a fan of country music, especially Carrie Underwood. And she likes Christmas carols, particularly “The First Noel” and “O Holy Night.”
 
A clerk at a local store, Olivia is a member of the Encountering Jesus Catholic youth ministry group in the Lowell/Troy area. She would like to attend college and study music with the hope of becoming a music teacher.
 
“Music helps us praise God,” Father Charbonneau said.
 
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Music publisher's mission to spread Gospel

The new leader of America's largest publisher of Catholic worship music started out as a blue-collar worker in the company's warehouse.

Wade Wisler, 49, was a shipping clerk when he began at Portland-based Oregon Catholic Press in 2000.
 
By the time Portland Archbishop Alexander Sample named him the new publisher March 14, 2017, Wisler had distinguished himself as an ad copy writer, editor of a quarterly worship magazine and director of a division that develops new music for use in churches.
 
"I know that he is the ideal person to bring his experience, his commitment to the church, and his deep and abiding faith to lead OCP into this next era," Archbishop Sample said.
 
OCP, a not-for-profit in operation for more than 90 years, sells music for choirs and songbooks like "Today's Missal," "Breaking Bread," "JourneySongs" and "Flor y Canto" to three-fourths of Catholic parishes in the United States. The worship aids also go worldwide, including to the United Kingdom, Australia, Vietnam, the Philippines and China.
 
OCP publishes Latin chant, contemporary music in many languages and "Spirit & Song," a hymnal for Catholic youth. It also produces recordings.
 
"Our primary mission is to spread the Gospel, serve the church, and help people around the world to pray and worship through music," Wisler told the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland. "That is something I am passionate about."
 
Wisler replaces John Limb, who is retired at the end of April after 31 years at the company, 25 as publisher. OCP, which also publishes the Catholic Sentinel and El Centinela, the archdiocese's Spanish-language newspaper, went through a meteoric advance during Limb's tenure. In addition to serving more parishes than any other liturgical publisher, OCP has led the way in Spanish Catholic worship publications.

Wisler plans to remain on Limb's course.
 
"The company is doing well," Wisler said. "I want to stay out of the way and let people do the good work they have been doing for so long."
 
Limb plans to devote more time to boards and organizations, but he will be working with the new publisher to ensure a smooth transition at OCP.
 
Wisler, a University of Michigan graduate, is a musician and a proficient Spanish speaker. He said the most important people OCP serves are the worshippers in the pews. He realizes that music can enhance or impede a person's encounter with God.
 
"We always have been looking at the church, looking at the changing needs of the church, and have been willing to adapt to meet those needs," Wisler said.
 
Challenges OCP faced under Limb, and will continue to wrestle with under Wisler, include the shift from print to digital publishing and the trend in dioceses to close or consolidate parishes.

In addition to publishing music, OCP gives financial support to good causes, including the Archdiocese of Portland and the Diocese of Baker.

OCP is a major sponsor of Encuentro, a multiyear catechetical and information-gathering event among Latinos in the U.S. Catholic Church. About 8 percent of employees are Spanish speakers and "Flor y Canto" is the best-selling Spanish hymnal in the country. The company offers workshops at parishes to help staff improve their ministry to Hispanics.

A grants program allows parishes across the nation to enhance their worship.

In May, OCP will visit the Diocese of Burlington.

On Friday, May 19th, composers from OCP will offer a free concert at St. John Vianney Church in South Burlington, titled "Sing Praise to God All the Earth." Music featured is inspired by reflection on Pope Francis' encyclical, "Laudato Si'." RSVP

On Saturday, May 20th, a conference will be held at Saint Michael's College in Colchester. The "Sing Praise to God Conference" is a day of music, learning, and inspiration for liturgical musicians. Details and RSVP: Sing Praise to God Conference
 
 

Transcendent tunes: Encountering God through music

Jerome P. Monachino was one of three children born into a musical family, and by age five he was playing guitar; “The Spirit Is a-Movin” and “City of God” were the first songs he played.
Because his mother was a church organist, he grew up with liturgical music. In fact, when he stopped being an altar server and became an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, he took every opportunity to be involved in music ministry.

In high school he studied vocal music and was a member of the chorale and jazz acapella group and joined rock and roll fusion bands.

At St. Michael’s College in Colchester, he earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. After graduating in 1991, he worked for a year as an analytical chemist.

But the music never left him.

In 1992, Monachino got his first liturgical music job at St. Michael’s where he is now director of liturgical music.

Almost 25 years later, Monachino — who earned a master’s in systematic theology at the college in 1997 ­— is doing what he loves through the ministry of music.

“Prayer is the practice of the presence of God,” Monachino said. “We’re charged with facilitating some of the prayer at Mass.”

For Monachino, music is prayer. It is a way for him to encounter God in the four-fold presence at Mass: word, Eucharist, people and priest.

Monachino directs two liturgical ensembles and singers at St. Michael’s College: One is active during the school year and consists mostly of students, and the other is a year-round group consisting largely of adult members of the worshipping community. Sometimes he combines the groups for special events.

He tries to incorporate various elements into the music so that everyone is inclined to sing — American swing and African components are common, but music with an Irish tone is sometimes included too. “We have a diverse population at the college,” he said. “Our job is not just to expose people to different styles of music but to help them encounter the God of all people.”

His challenge is to lead people to a greater encounter with Christ “despite their appetite for a particular liturgical [style].”

If liturgical music facilitates people’s encounter with the Risen Christ, “I can’t over emphasize its importance,” he said. “It could make or break somebody’s experience of liturgy.”

For him, “it’s all about getting people to participate.”

His favorite liturgical season is Ordinary Time. “The ordinary becomes transparent to the transcendent,” he said. “Music is extraordinarily ordinary because it is infused with God’s presence and God’s grace.”

Monachino also is coordinator of liturgical music at St. Anne’s Shrine in Isle LaMotte and a music minister at Holy Family and St. Lawrence churches in Essex Junction. He is part of the Pneuma Liturgical Ensemble and a member of the jazz groups Eight 02 and Gravel.

Monachino lives in Underhill with his wife, Claire, and their children, Olivia, 16, and Dominic, 13.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.
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