Catholic Radio, 24/7, in Spanish
LOS ANGELES — Catholic Latinos in Los Angeles now have their first Spanish-language 24-hour-a day Catholic radio station.
Guadalupe Radio hit the airwaves Feb. 2 to reach potentially millions of listeners.
“This station is a pastoral opportunity,” said Johannes Habsburg, in charge of the station’s capital development. “It’s a way to have Hispanics come into the Church and not lose their faith to other Christian groups or to materialism.”
Radio ministry has already proven its worth through Hombre Nuevo (New Man) radio in half-hour shows broadcast since 1987 to the Hispanic community. This Los Angeles-based apostolate of the Legion of Christ had to rent air time from commercial stations. With Guadalupe Radio, however, Hombre Nuevo is the principal owner in a unique collaborative effort among Hispanic Catholic groups.
Most other parish-based Hispanic ministries formerly renting air time on commercial radio stations in the area also joined in to form Guadalupe Radio, explained Legionary Father Juan Rivas, Hombre Nuevo’s founder.
“The system involved the whole community,” he said.
Dianna Ruiz of Los Angeles knows first-hand how effective radio can be. She said Hombre Nuevo helped her find her faith.
Now she listens to Catholic programming even in her office at work and then right after from the parking lot.
“I get out of work, turn on the radio and listen to words of hope,” she said. “All stress and problems fade away.
“It [Guadalupe Radio] is going to change people’s lives,” Ruiz said. “This will be like a big net God is throwing out over the world.”
According to Habsburg, Los Angeles is a great place to cast the net. The station’s location is especially significant for two reasons: lots of Hispanics and lots of traffic.
According to Carolina Guevara, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, out of approximately 5 million Catholics in the archdiocese, more than 70%, or close to 4 million, are Latino.
“Clearly, as everybody is aware, Hispanics will soon be a majority of the Catholic Church in this country,” pointed out Alex Muñoz. He and his wife Maria Rosa are national co-directors of Hombre Nuevo and concurrently co-directors of the Los Angeles branch.
Maria Rosa Muñoz also pointed out that after Mexico City, Los Angeles is the biggest Hispanic radio market in the world. “We’re going to capture an incredibly large audience,” she said.
She said even the fact that Los Angeles is the worst city in the United States for traffic will play a role. “With people stuck in their cars especially from 7a.m.-9 a.m., they’re now going to have no trouble finding Catholic Hispanic programming.”
Better yet, its signal reaches all of Los Angeles County and different parts of Orange and San Bernardino counties — three of the 10 U.S. dioceses with the largest Hispanic populations.
That gives Guadalupe Radio a potential of reaching more than 5 million Hispanic listeners.
The events leading to the first broadcast border on the miraculous. The radio station originated as Channel 6, a low-powered Los Angeles TV station. But, Habsburg said, radios all over the region pick up its audio signal clear as a bell on 87.7 FM.
“As a TV station it’s completely insignificant,” he said. “As an audio signal it’s fantastic.”
But when this station unexpectedly became available for Guadalupe Radio, negotiations and finances failed. It was early December 2005.
“All our human plans were falling apart,” Habsburg said.
Then unexpectedly, everything dovetailed. On Dec. 8, all parties suddenly agreed on all terms. On Dec. 9, St. Juan Diego’s feast, the contract was signed. On Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the first payment sealed the contract.
“Those dates were completely unplanned,” Hapsburg said. “We wanted to close it months earlier. Our Lady said, ‘It’s my station not your station, my plan not your plan.’”
Likewise the starting date. After the original fell through, the station launched on Feb. 2, the Presentation of the Lord.
Said Alex Muñoz, “Our Lady is definitely involved with this.”
Today, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, listeners can hear Hombre Nuevo programs at different times of the day, and various shows like a parish group’s Nueva Visión en el Espíritu Santo (New Vision on the Holy Spirit), a parish prayer group’s Generación con Cristo (Generation With Christ), news, current affairs, interviews, music, plus Mass and Rosary every day from Our Lady of Guadalupe National Shrine in Sacramento.
About these parish-based Christian ministries in the archdiocese, Alex Muñoz said, “The orthodoxy of their content is assured.”
Within the first week, listeners were already transmitting their excitement about Guadalupe Radio to Alberto Embry, coordinator for general formation programs for teenagers, young adults and catechists for the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
“Normally we don’t have the media with the Catholic perspective,” he said, “Now we have this opportunity.”
Habsburg explained the station is based on the Protestant model of radio to make it self-sufficient because these local churches, parish groups or ministries buy airtime to cover costs.
Radio is already proven as a major evangelistic tool to Hombre Nuevo.
“People go from being radio escuchas (radio listeners ) to radio activos (radio activists),” Muñoz said. “The whole idea is to get people from passive third party observers to having Christ be a moving force and presence in their lives.”
Father Rivas stressed the importance of inspiring listeners to become “activos.” They then help promote the radio station by advertising it in their parishes and supporting it with small donations.
“We involve the whole community with the idea of working with the Church, for the Church and in the Church,” he said. “We have more than a radio station. We have a family of people committed to this radio station.”
Monthly, listeners will be invited to big stadium events. “That we way we get in touch personally with our radio listeners,” Father Rivas said, “so we can see our listeners, hear what they like and don’t like, and why.”
“We don’t want listeners just saying, ‘Your program is beautiful,’” Father Rivas said. “We need people to come to our center or to their parishes, form themselves and then become active apostles.”
Members of St. John the Baptist Church in Baldwin Park, Calif., are already more than listeners.
“The parishioners have really taken the ball and run with it,” said Father John Montejano, the pastor. They’re “passing out bumper stickers and flyers to get other people excited about the station.”
“I think it’s going to be a good tool for evangelization to help the Hispanic Catholic community,” Father Montejano added. He’s already seen the important resource Hombre Nuevo is for many parishioners who attend retreats and conferences, and collaborate for catechesis and evangelization.
There are high hopes to eventually syndicate and broadcast these programs throughout the country. Already Atlanta businessman Ignacio Taboada is developing radio possibilities. He’s a fan of Hombre Nuevo programming via tape.
As shows helped him develop his own faith, he put together a group of local businessmen to rent commercial radio time to reach Hispanics in the Atlanta area with existing Hombre Nuevo programs. He estimates the show reaches up to 50,000 Hispanics in the Atlanta area.
Muñoz believes Guadalupe Radio is going to provide a means thorough which “we’re going to be a more effective tool for the bishops of the country with content that captures peoples’ attention and delivers the word of God that keeps them in the Church and engages them to have the personal relationship with Jesus Christ we’re all called to have.”
Joseph Pronechen is based in
- February 26-March 4, 2006