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Pope: Coldest hearts can be warmed by Christmas cheer

Christmas joy expressed through music brings a message of peace and brotherhood for those most in need, Pope Francis said.
Meeting with organizers and artists participating in a benefit Christmas concert at the Vatican, the pope said the talents of musicians and artists during the festive season "is a formidable way to open the doors of the mind and heart to the true meaning of Christmas."
"Christmas is a heartfelt feast, participatory, capable of warming the coldest hearts, of removing the walls of indifference toward one's neighbor, of encouraging openness toward the other and giving freely," he said Dec. 15.
The proceeds of the Dec. 16 concert, which is sponsored by the Pontifical Congregation for Catholic Education, will be donated to two organizations -- Scholas Occurrentes and the "Don Bosco in the World" Foundation -- to benefit children's programs in Argentina and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The pope thanked the artists and the event organizers for donating their time and talents to "the needs of the needy and disadvantaged who beg for help and solidarity" and for promoting peace and compassion through music.
Pope Francis said he hoped the concert would be "an occasion to sow tenderness -- this word that is often forgotten today. Violence, war, no! Tenderness! That it may sow tenderness, peace and hospitality which flows from the grotto in Bethlehem," the pope said.
Among the international cast of musicians meeting the pope and performing at the concert were Annie Lennox and Patti Smith.
  • Published in Vatican

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

Lift Every Voice and Sing

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops document “Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship”  states that music ministers are “ministers who share the faith, serve the community and express the love of God and neighbor through music.”  In our diocese, there are many different styles of music ranging from traditional choirs to folk groups to contemporary ensembles.  We are also blessed in Burlington to have the African and Vietnamese Choirs who add the textures of their heritage to our celebrations.  While styles may vary, we all share the call to serve our Church community.

The primary function of the music minister is not to perform, but to prayerfully lead and support the congregational singing.  “When words come, they are merely empty shells without the music.  They live as they are sung for the words are the body, and the music the spirit” (Hildegard of Bingen).  May the Holy Spirit continue to inspire all the musicians in our diocese to share their God-given gifts with their parishes and bring life to “empty shells.”

Article by Celia Asbell, choir director and organist at Immaculate Conception Cathedral and St Joseph Co-Cathedral.
  • Published in Parish

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.
  • Published in Parish
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