Young people listen to OCP composer Tom Booth as he leads praise music at World Youth Day in Panama in 2019.
Young people listen to OCP composer Tom Booth as he leads praise music at World Youth Day in Panama in 2019.
" OCP’s mission and commitment is to serve the entire church.

" Wade Wisler
Wade Wisler’s story at Oregon Catholic Press has a hint of Horatio Alger — he started in OCP’s shipping department, after all, and ended up in the publisher’s office. But there’s a definite Catholic undertone as well.

An amiable convert, Wisler entered the church at The Madeleine Parish in Northeast Portland when Father Rick Sirianni was pastor there.

Wisler, who had studied music, literature and Spanish at the University of Michigan, came to Portland in 1995. When he learned about OCP he immediately knew he wanted to work at the company.

He started as a shipping clerk in 2000; then, when a copywriting position opened up he applied and began writing. His next positions were managing editor, worship publications manager, assistant to the publisher and director of music development and outreach.

Archbishop Alexander Sample announced that Wisler would be OCP’s new publisher March 2017.

Wisler admitted in a 2022 article for the OCP publication “Today’s Liturgy” that he had assumed his role would be mostly as a caretaker publisher, “maintaining the company’s success” generated by its past leadership, hardworking staff and gifted composers.

“That assumption didn’t last long,” he wrote, describing his tenure as instead being akin to navigating a ship through stormy seas of change.

Challenges have included the transition from print to digital and online music resources, a shift put into high gear with the onset of COVID-19.

“The pandemic has been the largest challenge in OCP’s history,” Wisler said, recalling 2020’s closed churches where hymnals and missals were stripped from the pews.

“But it was also a good test for us,” he said. “I’m proud of how OCP has endured and persevered. OCP really is built on solid rock.”

Wisler sees OCP’s ability to weather the tough times in part a result of having stayed true to its core mission: publishing.

“OCP began in 1922 as the Catholic Truth Society of Oregon, countering anti-Catholicism through publishing pamphlets,” he said. “We still publish in service to the church.”

There are three misconceptions about OCP that Wisler would like to see corrected. OCP is barely known by Oregon Catholics, for starters.

“We’re one of the best-kept secrets in the archdiocese,” he said.

In fact OCP is one of the leading Catholic music publishers in the United States.

“When I visit my mom in North Carolina, there are the OCP missals or hymnals,” Wisler said. “When we worship it’s the music we know and love.”

“Truly, OCP is one of the Archdiocese of Portland’s greatest assets, one the local church can be proud of,” Wisler said.

More importantly, Catholics who know about OCP too often mistakenly think that it publishes only contemporary music.

“It’s true we’re known for contemporary worship music,” said Wisler. “However, OCP’s mission and commitment is to serve the entire church.” The company has for decades published a great diversity of music, including chant and hymnody, responding to different needs at different parishes.

Wisler takes delight in the fact that there are more of the Archdiocese of Omaha core hymns (a list of 72 traditional hymns) in OCP’s books Breaking Bread and Journeysongs than in any other Catholic hymnal or missal.

Lastly, few understand how generously the nonprofit company gives.

“As a not-for-profit publisher, we give back to the church,” said Wisler.

OCP’s Parish Grants program, begun in 2001, has distributed more than $3 million in direct contributions to parishes across the country.

OCP also has a longstanding tradition of reaching out to parishes hit by natural disasters. Thousands of hymnals and missals were lost in Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters, for example. OCP replaced them all.

Closer to home, OCP makes large contributions to the Archdiocese of Portland and the Diocese of Baker, based on a percentage of sales. In previous years that has amounted to $1 million annually to the Archdiocese of Portland.

The company also gives to local Catholic organizations like CYO, Catholic Charities and Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary.

Wisler is committed to continuing OCP’s mission to provide parishes with accessible music — no matter what the level of musicians’ expertise.

Both cathedral choirs, led by professional musicians, and small parish choirs, led by music directors who may not have much training, can lead their congregations musically in ways that are beautiful and appropriate, said Wisler.

“We ensure that some of the songs can be done in communities with fewer resources,” he said.

Those songs often are traditional pieces, distinguished by their simplicity.

In contrast, large and robust choirs have the ability to sing a sublime repertoire of more complex arrangements, including OCP’s Trinitas choral octavo series. The music at St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland is a good example. That choir, led for more than 25 years by Angela Westhoff-Johnson, director of product development for OCP, accompanies Masses with music equaling professional choirs anywhere in the world.

When the Wisler family lived on Portland’s west side they worshipped at St. Mary Cathedral.

“We loved that music,” said Wisler.

Wisler believes OCP, like other Catholic organizations, has its own charism. “Our charism is to ‘cultivate sacred music and increase its store of treasures,’” he said, quoting the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. “We believe that the Holy Spirit is active today, and in every age, inspiring artists in the church.”

He compared that concept to how there are saints in every age, led by the Holy Spirit to address the needs of the faithful of that age.

Wisler quotes Pope Francis, who said in 2017, “It is necessary to ensure that sacred music…be fully ‘inculturated’ in the artistic and musical language of the current time; namely, that they are able to incarnate and translate the Word of God into song, sound and harmony capable of making the hearts of our contemporaries resonate, also creating an appropriate emotional climate which disposes people to faith and stirs openness and full participation in the mystery being celebrated.”

That “inculturation” is facilitated by OCP’s review process, which ensures its music is theologically sound, in line with Catholic teaching.

“We believe in OCP’s contributions to the church of the future,” Wisler concluded.