Tuesday, February 14, 2017

People Gotta Sing; People Gotta Pray

Tuesday greetings to all.

I am gearing up to leave for Baltimore tomorrow morning. Mary Birmingham and I are doing an RCIA Intensive at the Mid-Atlantic Congress there on Friday and Saturday. This is a bit of a different kind of model, kind of a "conference within a conference." There are close to 50 people registered for the intensive and Mary and I have been working for months on our five one-hour sessions. Should be fun!

I received a few photos from the folks in Tyler, Texas, where I led a workshop on Saturday. Here are some folks singing WLP's fine hymn God, Who At the Font Once Named Us.

We sang this piece after everyone had a chance to come to the water to renew their baptism.

And here's yours truly in action!

Looks like I am trying to figure out what to say next!

January and February have been focused on so much ministry training and retreat work for me. Following the Congress in Baltimore and a few days back here in Chicago, we'll be heading to Anaheim, California for the annual Los Angeles Religious Education Congress.

You know, people really do gotta sing and people really do gotta pray. I've met hundreds of them in my travels just these past several weeks!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Who We Are and Whose We Are in Tyler, Texas

Monday greetings. It's sunny and beautiful here in the Midwest.

I had a wonderful time in the Diocese of Tyler, Texas over the weekend. I believe Tyler is the smallest (number of people) diocese in the lower 48 states. On Saturday over 90 people from across the diocese came to the chancery office to spend the day focused on cultivating a baptismal spirituality in our hearts and in our parishes. A few photos.

Across town, the same presentation was being given in Spanish. I was told that over 60 people were in attendance at that location. They really know how to get the folks out in this diocese!

As you know, baptismal spirituality is one of my favorite topics, around which I have lots of passion. A day like Saturday is, for the folks gathered--and for me--a day "to remember who we are and whose we are."

One woman at the session told us that she always thought that her baptism was something that happened to her way in the past, when she was a baby. She said that the day helped awaken in her the importance and enduring power of the sacrament. I just smiled when she said this.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Our Common Home by Brother Mickey McGrath

Another exciting day has dawned in the world of Catholic publishing.

About an hour ago I received an email from our shipping department, alerting me to the fact that Brother Mickey McGrath's latest book just arrived in our warehouse. Within a few minutes, the book's editor, Christine Krzystofczyk, was in my office with the very first copy of Our Common Home: Visual meditations of Pope Francis' Encyclical Laudato Si'. 

I couldn't resist snapping a photo of the book's proud editor.

Brother Mickey was inspired to create these images while reading Pope Francis' encyclical. Just as in his similar book with WLP, Dear Young People, in this new book Mickey takes Pope Francis' words, this time from phrases in Laudato Si' and beautifully creates art for the quote or turns the quote itself into a piece of art.

This conjunction of art and text helps illustrate the pope's inspiring and challenging words. Here are a few examples. They don't do the book justice, but you get the idea.

I am so grateful that we are in collaboration with Brother Mickey, whose work always touches my heart.

Please, please, order your copy of this book and be inspired by Pope Francis in a new way.

Thanks for listening.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

WLP and One License

Wednesday greetings from our offices here in Franklin Park, Illinois.

For the past several months, we at World Library Publications have been faced with a choice. This has to do with the licensing of our music.

Many of you know how this works, but for those who don't, here goes.

When a parish, diocese, or institution wants to reprint or project a piece of music onto screens for use by the congregation, they have to obtain permission and secure a license to do so. Many of these entities purchase what we call a publisher's "annual license." These licenses cover the use of that publisher's music for a period of one year. During that year, the parish, diocese, or institution is required to report the use of that music in whatever form it has been distributed. The publisher receives those usage reports and maintains a database throughout the year to track that usage.

At the end of the year, the money received from the entities through the purchases of their annual licenses is distributed to the composers whose compositions were used and that usage reported during the year. The publisher retains a portion of that licensing "pool" to cover administrative and other expenses.

Licensing can occur in other ways as well: one-time usage, usage for a liturgical season, etc.

Several months ago, we at WLP learned that OCP and GIA (the two other large publishers of Roman Catholic liturgical music) had formed a new licensing company: One License. GIA had their own licensing arm, "One License," and OCP had its own, "LicenSing," each with its own set of member publishers. That new company would be the place that those who want to license music published by OCP and GIA and these other member publishers would go, kind of a "one-stop shop" for people who want to use music from those publishers.

Up until this point, parishes, dioceses, and institutions that wanted annual licenses to use music from WLP, GIA, and OCP had to purchase three annual licenses, one from each publisher. The reporting and tracking systems were separate as well. We at WLP have resisted joining either one of the original separate licensing arms of OCP and GIA simply because we wanted to make sure our composers were receiving the maximum portion of the licensing dollars through our own WLP annual license, without diminishing their portion through payment of an administrative fee to the licensing administrator.

With the "merger" of OCP and GIA's licensing arms, the picture changed considerably.

We had to take a good, long, hard look at this new picture. The driving force behind our decision was our clear mission statement here at WLP:

WLP serves and inspires the singing, praying, initiating Church.

We ultimately came to the decision to become a member publisher with One License precisely because doing so would help us move our mission forward; this was a decision made to better serve our customers, to better serve the singing and praying Church.

So now, those who hold a One License annual license will be able to have one place to find the music they need, download assembly versions of pieces, report usage, and listen to sound clips. Licenses are also offered for rehearsal tracks and pod casting and live streaming.

My largest concern throughout all of this has been for our WLP composers, many of whom I personally consulted as we pondered our decision. It is my hope, and I am truly optimistic about this, that because many, many more people will be exposed to the finest liturgical music published today by us at World Library Publications, the music of WLP's composers will be licensed, used, and reported much more often and by a much larger pool of Catholic and mainline Protestant parishes. This is a good thing.

So, beginning on March 1, 2017, WLP will be a member publisher of One License. Letters announcing our decision have been mailed to our composers and to our WLP annual license holders. The arrangement with One License is non-exclusive, which means that parishes can continue to hold a WLP annual license if they so choose and they can still come to us for all of the rest of their licensing needs.

A caution. Far too many parishes and parish musicians who purchase annual licenses simply do not report usage. Far too many times I have heard music directors say, "Oh, I have an annual license, which permits me to use any music from that publisher; reporting is a hassle; we've already paid our money, so what's the difference?" Folks, the difference is that if we don't know whose compositions you used, how are we to distribute those licensing dollars to that composer so that he or she can pay the mortgage or put shoes on the feet of their children? This is as basic as it gets. Please, please do not deprive those who create music that lifts hearts and souls to the Lord of the compensation to which they are entitled. It is not only a legal issue (annual licenses are legal contracts which require reporting), it is a justice issue.

Thanks for listening today.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Presence and Absence in Atlanta

Monday greetings. I know it has been awhile since I last posted; time seems to be flying by these days, especially with my own travel schedule.

I spent all day Saturday in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, leading an RCIA day focused on conversion and discernment.

This has become one of my favorite topics. I begin with an exploration of the meaning of baptism. We talk about the Christian journey "from the font to the banquet of heaven" and what this journey means in the area of our own conversion. I then focus our attention on the Church's understanding of conversion, by looking at Paul VI's Evangelii Nuntiandi, as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church. These documents provide jumping off points to examine our own conversion; our own personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

One of the questions I use to help the participants examine their own journey of conversion is this one: "When did Jesus Christ turn from an idea, or a person to study, or a figure in history into much, much more for you?" I love watching the faces on most Catholics when I ask this question. At first, they have quizzical expressions. Then, when they reflect further and start sharing with one another, you can see how they begin to realize how important the articulation of their relationship with the Lord actually is.

Catechumens and candidates in the RCIA process need to meet Christ in the real lives of RCIA ministers. I am becoming more and more convinced that that cannot meet Christ on a handout.

Here are the good folks in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, conversing with one another.

I try to tell my own story of the discovery of Jesus Christ in my own life, describing that personal relationship. But you know, I have reached a point in my life when I am not afraid also to talk about those times, sometimes long stretches of time, when the Lord has seemed absent in my life.

I think people need leaders like me, who are people unafraid to talk about faith, to also talk about the struggles to find God, and to name times when God seems absent.

It was a good day in Atlanta.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, January 30, 2017

They Should Be Ashamed

I am outraged and deeply, deeply worried for the United States. Tomorrow, several of us are going to visit the refugee family from Afghanistan that we have been supporting. Read more about it here. We partnered with Exodus World Service to reach out to "our family." This is Exodus' statement of response to the executive order signed by President Trump. Please read it and educate yourself about the plight of refugees and the process they go through to legally enter the Unites States and become part of the collective "we."

The president and those who support that executive order should be ashamed. And I do not say this as a political statement of any kind. This is a statement that is rooted in the biblical values of hospitality and welcome to the stranger.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Mobilizing the Christian community 
to welcome refugees.

January 2017

Our Response
Today the U.S. President signed an executive order
that changes refugee resettlement as we know it.

The executive order limits refugee admissions and
restricts travel to the U.S.
from a number of countries
that are predominantly Muslim.

We stand strong with our refugee friends
 and sense God's call on our hearts
to remain steadfast in welcoming refugees with love.


Aren't these changes for our protection?

The security of our country is important. But we believe
that safety and compassion 
are not mutually exclusive
for the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program.

Refugees are among the most rigorously vetted
people who enter our country.
 The refugee vetting process is lengthy and arduous.
God reminds us repeatedly in Scripture
not to live in fear. As Christians,
we must ask ourselves if fear justifies
restricting refugees, some of the
world's most vulnerable people
who also long for safety and security.

Why should we be concerned?
We are concerned about delays for resettled refugees
who seek to reunite with their families.
Hope dims for parents
and children who wait for reunification.
We also grieve for the
well-being of refugees overseas who wait,
 often in the poorest of conditions,
to find refuge and safety in America.

We believe that refugees from all nations and religions are
courageous survivors who contribute much to our communities. 
Please join us in steadfastly welcoming the stranger.

Sign or Share a Statement of Solidarity
Learn More about Refugee Issues
Volunteer as a New Neighbor to a Recently Arrived Refugee Family
Invite a Speaker to Your Church or Small Group to Learn About Refugees
Give Now to Ensure that Refugees Here Receive Help

God of grace,
Watch over all refugees,
Embrace them in the pain of their partings.
Into their fear and loss, send love.
Open our eyes that we might
See You in them.
Open our hearts that they might
See You in us.
Open our arms that we might
Welcome refugees to new homes,
As you stretched out your arms
And invited everyone home.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Re-cap Southwest Liturgical Conference in El Paso

Tuesday greetings from the dreary Midwest.

I enjoyed my six days in El Paso, at the Southwest Liturgical Conference (SWLC) Study Week. Kudos to the leadership in the Diocese of El Paso, who really got the local folks to attend, especially on Friday and Saturday.

The board of directors of the SWLC made a commitment a few years ago to have an RCIA track at each of the study weeks. With the closing of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate a few yeas ago, it is important for organizations like SWLC to take up the mantle and continue offering ministry formation in Christian initiation. A sign of the continued vitality in initiation ministry was the interest generated in our exhibit booth over our Fountain of Life initiation resources. Most of our books were sold out by the end of the conference and we took orders for many, many more. Frankly, it did my heart good (and I know I am patting myself on the back a bit here!) to see so many resources in a series that I have shepherded here at WLP for the past seventeen years. To watch the delight on people's faces, for instance, when they finally found a worthy resource for the RCIA as adapted for children of catechetical age was a particularly proud moment for me. This was the first conference at which we shared Blessie La Scola's new book, Children of the Light: Precatechumenate Sessions for Children and Families. 

WLP and J.S. Paluch sent two of us to El Paso. I was privileged to work alongside our owner, Mary Lou Paluch Rafferty, a true model of servant leadership. Here we are:

WLP's own Peter Kolar led the music for the entire conference. I've gotta tell you, the music was excellent. Peter is comfortable playing and arranging in styles from Bach to Huapango. So many people expressed their gratitude to Peter for a job well done.

SWLC also provides opportunities for fellowship and connection among the publishers. Here I am with Pedro Rubalcava of OCP.

Pedro did a great job playing guitar and serving as cantor at many of the liturgies.

On Saturday morning, the Archbishop of San Antonio, Archbishop Garcia-Siller, presented the keynote in Spanish. I was in a hospitality room above the convention hall and snapped this photo.

The SWLC is by far one of my favorite conferences. You can just feel the flavor of the Southwest, this year the flavor of a border town. There is much fear in this area of our country over the future of immigration policies here in the United States. Please keep our brothers and sisters in prayer.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.