In the late 1980s, when I was a graduate theology student at the University of Notre Dame and a hopeful hack of a liturgical guitarist, a friend came running into my dorm room. The best musician of our crew, he waved a paperback book in the air.

“You’ve got to see this,” he said.

The friend had just discovered “Today’s Missal Music Issue,” a resource of sacred song published in the exciting wilds of Oregon.

We loved the music, which was new, beautiful, and deep. Some of us were traditional, others progressive. But with the help of those songs, we all opened ourselves to fresh encounters with the Almighty. Nerds that we were, we’d launch into OCP descants while walking to class. We’d try out loud harmonies while washing dishes. Our relationship with God was breaking into everyday life via music.

More than three decades later, I edit a newspaper published by OCP, and we all are marking the non-profit company’s centennial with joy.

It started in 1922 as the Catholic Truth Society of Oregon, formed to fight anti-Catholic bigotry as the state’s voters decided to ban Catholic schools.

“The false statements and attacks which so often appear in the public

press should not be allowed to go uncorrected,” the Sentinel wrote in its first report on the new society.

The members of the Catholic Truth Society, priests at the start, gave lectures and printed zealous pamphlets by the thousands. They wrote columns in secular newspapers and bought radio time. They purchased a long-haul truck and outfitted it as a chapel and speaking stage to bring their message to small towns. Even more impressive, members carried on tender and sustained correspondence with hundreds of people who wanted to learn more about the ancient faith.

In 1934, the society decided to share the meaning behind the glorious mystery of the Latin Mass and so began to publish “My Sunday Missal,” which had English translations of prayers and antiphons. The response was brisk as Catholics clearly wanted to participate more in worship.

That desire carried through to the Second Vatican Council, and the Truth Society responded by revising the missal and adding music. The book got the name “Today’s Missal” in 1971 and within a decade, the annual “Music Issue” emerged, both to preserve the ancient musical treasures of the faith and yet keep pace with emerging songs that were creating zeal among Catholics. In 1980, the company changed its name to Oregon Catholic Press.

OCP had responded to the church’s folk music movement by adding contemporary songs with depth and theological rigor. It also cherished chant and hymns, treasures of our Catholic heritage.

Meanwhile, OCP has a longtime ethic of service that distinguishes it. At one time, customers who had problems often got a jar of Oregon blackberry jam as an apology. Today’s OCP workers put in long hours to get things right for parishes.

When my friend ran into my room that day in the 1980s, he was bearing a book that represented decades of prayer, common sense and Christian action. OCP’s great contribution has been to read the signs of the times and provide what people need to encounter God and his love.

I, among many, am grateful.