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Father Francis Hoffman of Relevant Radio discusses why the airwaves are still an important area of evangelization in this Internet age.
BY The Editors
Father Francis Hoffman is senior director
of mission, programming and development for Relevant Radio.
Relevant Radio owns and operates 12
stations and 21 affiliates across the United States.
Pope Benedict XVI in his recent
World Communications Day Message asked priests to ramp up their evangelizing
efforts in the “new media” of the Internet.
But Father Hoffman, a priest of the
personal prelature of Opus Dei, knows that a very old medium — radio — still
carries a punch in spreading a very old, yet ever-relevant, faith.
He recently spoke with Register
senior writer Tim Drake about his new role.
Where are you from originally?
Tell me about your family growing up.
I grew up in Mundelein, Ill., the
youngest of eight children — six boys and two girls. My father was in
manufacturing, and my mother was a homemaker. They’re both second- and
third-generation Irish and German Chicago natives.
Do you have a favorite Catholic
I don’t think I’ve ever missed a
Sunday Mass. I would have to say my favorite memory is Christmas in our family,
and going as a family to what was then the local Benedictine convent — Marytown
— for adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. We would go there to pray the
family Rosary. Just visiting that place, or driving through the Mundelein
Seminary, made an impression on me. For a long time we said the family Rosary
together at 8 or 8:30pm. I enjoyed that because the whole family was together.
When did you first recognize that
you might be called to become a priest?
My junior year at Northwestern
University I already began to feel called to the priesthood. I sensed that I
wanted to preach, hear confessions, and celebrate Mass.
What specifically led to your
My parents got involved with the
personal prelature Opus Dei when I was in fifth or sixth grade, and I started
going to activities, father-son programs and service trips through junior high
and high school. I joined Opus Dei as a numerary when I was 17. I was very
taken by the example of priests I knew in Opus Dei. I found them very human,
very accessible, very wonderful people, and considered them my best friends.
They had a reverence for the holy Eucharist, devotion to the holy Mother, and
kindness in dealing with people that I found very attractive.
ordained by Pope John Paul II, weren’t you?
Yes, I got lucky. I was in the right
place at the right time. Pope John Paul II would always ordain priests on Holy
Trinity Sunday between 1982 and 1992. There were always between 20 to 30 Opus
Dei priests in that group. I got in right under the wire and was ordained in
1992. Just about at that time our prelate was ordained a bishop so that he
could ordain future priests himself. Two other Americans were ordained as
priests that day, as well. The other two got stuck in Rome being professors.
How did you come to Relevant
One day during November 2003, I was
at a conference on media and apostolates in the media in the Chicago area,
encouraging our lay members to use their professional expertise in the media. I
was there to celebrate Mass and give a reflection. While there, I met John
Morales. A couple of days later, he asked me if I would be willing to be on the
radio to talk about Our Lady of Guadalupe. That grew over the years, and I
became a weekly guest on “Morning Air.” I developed a relationship with the
people in management and on the board. They’ve wanted me to be involved for the
past four years. They prayed me into this.
I’ve served as a pastor in schools
for the past 11 years. Eventually, my superiors gave me this assignment for the
next three years.
It’s a great outreach with people.
I’ve been given an abundance of theological formation. It’s natural given my
background in spiritual direction, preaching and teaching. I’m just doing that
over a microphone.
How did you come to be known as
It has nothing to do with getting
into fights at school or with being dropped on my head. My mother said she
wanted a boy named Peter, meaning “rock.” My father wanted his father’s name,
Francis. Dad called me Frank. Mom called me Rock. Now everyone calls me Father
What does your job entail?
A lot of what I’ve been doing is
geared toward the sound of pledge drives and mission. The overriding theme that
I’m trying to have associates, constituents and listeners have is moving away
from worrying about money and trusting in God that providence will provide. I split
my time between Green Bay and Chicago. I’m also responsible for caring for the
holy Eucharist. We have exposition every day. We’re cementing our devotion to
the holy Eucharist and Our Lady, and developing the right sound so that people
hear the voice of Christ.
Given the advent of the Internet
and technologies, does Catholic radio still have an important place in the
Is the Catholic faith relevant, and
is Catholic radio relevant? Absolutely. The Catholic faith will always be
relevant. Truth has no half-life. Once people hear it, they’ll never forget it.
is an outstanding medium as long as people have to drive cars with their eyes
open. People can’t read the newspaper while they’re driving. Our primary
audience is educated Catholics stuck in traffic jams; 92% of adults listen to
the radio every day. It’s much more powerful than television in shaping
attitudes. It’s uniquely adapted to the task of evangelization. The challenge
we face is whether the Church will marshal its assets to evangelize in the big
cities in the radio medium. That’s how you have to reach people. It’s deep
water. It’s not for the faint of heart. We need to be bold and be involved.
Recently, Relevant Radio tried
something distinct in trying to raise money. Rather than holding a traditional
telethon, it held a radio retreat on Mary. How did the nontraditional
Last August, we fell short of our
needs by $600,000. We realized that our pledge drives were annoying listeners
and driving them away. We were faced with the question of dollars or souls. We
cannot worship the golden calf. If we feed the sheep of Our Lord, we will
We made an effort company-wide not
to keep track of how much money we raised during the retreat. Only our chief
executive knew how much we were raising. It’s always been borne out that when
you honor the Blessed Mother, she will bless you. We received enough support to
continue for the foreseeable future. Like many large, poor families, we live
paycheck to paycheck. The greatest era of evangelization was the first three
centuries. The apostles didn’t have an endowment fund — they just went out and
Tim Drake writes from
St. Joseph, Minnesota.