Catholic FM Radio Now Broadcasting Locally
August 19, 2004 - August 25, 2004
By Barbara Hardin Staff Writer
Catholic FM radio is now broadcasting locally, bringing a unique alternative for Catholic members of the community that have only had Protestant-based radio stations to tune in to thus far.
But Bill Hamilton of Wilmington, president of Archangel Gabriel Association Inc., d/b/a Wilmington Catholic Radio -and a member of St. Therese Catholic Church in Wrightsville Beach - invites everyone else to listen to the station, as well. "We went on the air July 19 and we've been getting good responses," says Hamilton. "We've already heard ... people from Wilmington call in to the radio station, and one happened to be a Baptist minister who was just channel surfing. He commented that he had learned things about the Catholic Church that he had had misconceptions about So, we're even changing the minds of our Protestant brothers and sisters."
Plans for WBPL 92.7 FM, a low-power station, came about after Hamilton came into a deeper faith back in 1996. "I started to deepen my faith and ... I developed a real love for Jesus Christ and for the Catholic Church, and I became very excited about my faith," he explains. "I wanted to be more involved with it. I wanted other people to experience what I had experienced, and I always thought it would be great if we could have some Catholic radio, because I knew there were some real good Catholic programs out there."
Then, in 2001, the FCC opened up a one-week window for a new category of radio stations called low-power FM. "I had someone who was willing to help me put in the application with the FCC...," he says. "At that point, I also brought in two other men to help me with the project, so that if something should happen to me... somebody would be able to carry it on."
Enter Jim Edens and Joe De Robertis, also members of St Therese Catholic Church. Edens now serves as vice president, and De Robertis is secretary-treasurer. The three men are also members of the Knights of Columbus at the church, a Roman Catholic men's fraternal organization.
"Twenty months later, we got a construction permit from the FCC, and they gave us 18 months to get the station on the air," Hamilton says. "At that point, we started fund-raising in the church and the community, and we raised the money we needed. We started learning all about radio and all the things it involved and the equipment, and we started buying the equipment and built the station on Burnette Boulevard. There's a radio tower out there where we have our transmission antenna mounted."
The three men, who knew absolutely nothing about radio broadcasting, raised $20,000 and got a matching grant from Fr. Gene Grabowski of St. Therese Catholic Church to start the non-profit station. "I have an electronics background, but not much in radio broadcasting, so I did a lot of reading and a lot of researching on the Internet and talking to other people and other stations that had already gone on the air," says Hamilton. "We're still learning."
All programming is currently received via satellite from a network called Relevant Radio, which offers 24-hour-a-day Catholic programming, including features, interviews, phone-in shows and masses. A full schedule is available at relevantradio.com.
"At some point in time, we'll start doing public service announcements for the local churches and, if we get the sponsors, - we'll recognize sponsors on the radio," Hamilton says. "And, at some point, we'll do some local programming, but that will be in the future. We don't have a studio, per se, right now, where we can actually do that. But that's something down the road that we might explore."
Anyone wishing to help out with expenses may send their donations to Wilmington Catholic Radio, P.O. Box 12321, Wilmington, N.C., 28405.
"We're really behind the Protestants, that's for sure," says Hamilton. "We have a Jot of catching up to do. But it's something that's really starting to grab hold in this country, and it's starting to go forward."