EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network marked a huge milestone on March 7 to celebrate its 20th year on the air: It added its 180th affiliate when Bishop Cirilo Flores of San Diego flipped the switch to launch KCEO 1000 AM.
On hand for the festivities were San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, his wife, Tiffany, and attorney Charles LiMandri, the co-chairpersons who helped raise the funds for this new station.
The occasion included another milestone, too. This affiliate also is Immaculate Heart Radio’s 26th station that broadcasts EWTN radio programming throughout California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. Immaculate is EWTN’s largest affiliate group.
“This is a great event to expand in San Diego,” said Immaculate’s president, Douglas Sherman. “The station reaches almost 4 million people, and a million of these are Catholic. That we can reach that many people full time has huge significance in our service to the Church.”
Right after San Diego’s launch, seven more stations, from Delaware to Texas, have either started airing or will air within 45 days, bring the total of EWTN affiliates to 187.
Sherman said the radio group’s partnership with EWTN goes back 17 years, when he and son Branigan visited Mother Angelica to obtain her permission to put EWTN (shortwave) programming on an AM/FM station they wanted to start in the Lake Tahoe/Reno, Nev., area.
“We were the first in the country to sign a contract with EWTN to provide 24-hour programming,” Sherman noted. “Ave Maria beat us to get on the air in fall 1996, and we started Jan. 2, 1997.”
That meeting also gained them something else: Mother Angelica’s prayers. She prayed over father and son. Today, Father Branigan Sherman works for Immaculate.
The new station is a major one, as San Diego is the 17th-largest radio market in the country. It boosts a potential listening audience of more than 130 million people for EWTN radio total.
EWTN radio is available in 19 of the country’s top 35 radio markets, including San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Seattle, Washington and Boston. This does not count millions more listeners who are reached via shortwave and Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 130.
“Basically, from the time John Paul II introduced the idea of the New Evangelization, you can follow the growth of Catholic radio,” pointed out EWTN Radio’s general manager, David Vacheresse.
Emphasized Sherman: “None of us in Catholic radio would probably be here today if not for Mother Angelica and her commitment to provide
programming up on satellite for anyone who could start (an AM/FM) radio station.”
With San Diego launched, Sherman is turning his attention to the only major California city without Catholic radio in English: Los Angeles.
Most likely, Rivers will be involved in fundraising there, too. He’s sold on the impact Catholic radio can have. A few years ago, he and Tiffany saw a short video of Immaculate’s impact.
“The biggest thing was seeing how many lives are touched,” he said. “Catholics were coming back to the Church. There were those who chose life when they tuned into Catholic radio when going to the abortion clinic. There were so many powerful stories.”
Rivers and his wife then wanted to be part of bringing Catholic programming to San Diego.
But, says the NFL star, it goes beyond a local station. Rivers heard a fellow speaker at a recent men’s conference he spoke at in Alabama sum up the Catholic journey this way: “We have two jobs: to get to heaven and to take as many people as possible.”
“Catholic radio helps get that done,” Rivers said. “It helps nourish our own faith and helps bring others. It’s something as simple as a radio station, yet is impacting millions of people.”
The other San Diego station co-chairperson, LiMandri, knows firsthand the impact of Catholic radio. He was lead attorney for the National Organization for Marriage in the Proposition 8 initiative to make the definition of marriage between one woman and one man. He also represented supporters of the Mount Soledad cross, a court case involving the presence of a cross at a veterans’ memorial.
“I became aware of the power of radio from those campaigns,” he said. “As you know, the mainstream media is not very cooperative or willing to share the fullness of the truth on these issues, and we’ve had much more success getting our message out through the radio.” Initial results showed “how powerful radio can be doing the Lord’s work. It’s a great way to inform people what the (culture war’s) challenges are and what Catholics in particular are facing these days.”
“We know EWTN has fidelity to the magisterium, and we don’t have to worry about our message getting diluted,” he said.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., summed up the value of Catholic radio on EWTN’s Life on the Rock last fall: “Catholic radio
is a bishop’s best friend, as far as I’m concerned, because it gives us an opportunity to get our message to our people unfiltered.
“I think the Lord is providing us at this moment with this very powerful and effective tool to educate our people. I look at Catholic radio as the most effective adult-education formation tool that I have.”
Catholic radio, he added, “is a very non-threatening way for someone who isn’t Catholic to become acquainted with the faith, and it is bearing this fruit that Mother Angelica foresaw.”
Joseph Pronechen writes from Trumbull, Connecticut.
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