4/10/2017 3:01:00 PM WATCH: New publisher has people in pew on his mind Retiring head of OCP brought worship music to more U.S. parishes and to Catholics worldwide
Kim Nguyen/Catholic Sentinel John Limb and Wade Wisler look over an Oregon Catholic Press report. Limb, head of the liturgical publishing company since 1992, retires this month. Wisler, who began at OCP in the shipping department, is the new publisher.
A Vietnamese musician demonstrates a melody on a wood recorder for Limb, who visited Vietnam as part of building a catalog of Vietnamese liturgical music. OCP now offers liturgical music for English-, Spanish- and Vietnamese-speaking Catholics.
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 Archbishop Alexander Sample named him as new publisher on March 14, 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 says. “That is something I am passionate about.”
Wisler replaces John Limb, who is retiring at the end of April after 31 years at the company, 25 as publisher. OCP, which also publishes the Catholic Sentinel and El Centinela, went through a meteoric advance during Limb’s tenure. In addition to serving more parishes than anyone else, OCP has led the way in Spanish Catholic worship publications.
Wisler plans to remain on Limb’s course. “The company is doing well,” Wisler says. “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 will be working with the new publisher to ensure a smooth transition at OCP.
Wisler, a graduate of the University of Michigan, is a musician and a proficient Spanish speaker. He is completing a basic ministry certificate through the Archdiocese of Portland.
He says 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 the Almighty.
“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 says.
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. A grants program allows parishes across the nation to enhance their worship.
OCP is a major sponsor of Encuentro, a multi-year 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.
In his years as publisher, Limb formed partnerships across the globe.
“John has always been a willing supporter of our work,” says Msgr. Rick Hilgartner, president and CEO of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians. “He understands the business of the music industry but recognizes that OCP is at the service of the church, and everyone on John’s team approaches work in that way. OCP has been a great supporter of NPM and our mission to form competent liturgical musicians to serve the church, and I am grateful to John for his leadership.”
Limb, 60, hands the helm to Wisler comfortably.
“He is a good man,” Limb says. “He is very personable. He is sincere. He is very smart guy. He is going to learn quickly.”
What Limb likes best is that Wisler is humble. “Humility goes a long way in a position of leadership,” the veteran retiring publisher says. Wisler has asked himself if he can do the job.
“I finally realized, ‘No, actually, I can’t,’” he says. “But God can. And I can with God’s grace and the help of all the good people around me.”
A question of concern at OCP: Will the huge bowl of peanut M&Ms Limb kept in his office remain for all to nibble?
“That’s a matter of controversy,” Wisler says, admitting that his 10-year-old daughter is pushing for continuity there. “I haven’t yet decided. Be assured, there will be some form of candy here.”