By Katrina Genereux/Staff Writer, OND
Real Presence Radio Network has become a powerful tool for evangelization and deepening faith lives across the region. The Catholic radio network stretches across the state of North Dakota, throughout much of the Diocese of Crookston, and also includes stations in the Dioceses of New Ulm, Duluth, Superior, Wis., and Rapid City, S.D. They also broadcast online at www.yourcatholicradiostation.com.
“Our mission is to assist the Roman Catholic Church in drawing all people to the knowledge and love of Jesus and his Church through the medium of Catholic radio, in full accord with the magisterium of the Catholic Church. This mission is accomplished through proclamation of the Gospel and truths revealed by Jesus Christ through his Church [in] partnership with local dioceses, parishes and faithful,” said Steve Splonskowski, Executive Director of Real Presence Radio Network.
The first station, AM 1370 KWTL, began operating in Grand Forks on Nov. 6, 2004. Since then they have added 14 stations.
Splonskowski said the expansion has occurred through invitation.
“We have been invited by bishops, priests and listeners who have traveled into our coverage areas to look for signals in their area,” he said. “We have also felt invited by the Lord to embrace opportunities for expansion that he has sent our way and opened doors to accomplish [it].”
He said this growth has provided a sense of family that extends beyond state and diocesan boundaries and support for people seeking to follow goodness and truth in a confused world.
“We hear stories all of the time of people who have been drawn into a closer relationship with Christ and his Church after stumbling across our radio broadcasts,” Splonskowski said. “As they continue to listen, they find the scriptures being explained, real life issues being discussed from a perspective of living lives of virtue and loving our neighbor. They find time for prayer and reflection that enhances their relationship with Christ.”
DJ Bakken of St. Philip’s, Bemidji, came across Real Presence Radio in 2015. He has worked as a forester for Beltrami County since April 2013 after living in Montana for more than 30 years.
He does a lot of driving for work and usually spends it listening to the radio. He doesn’t remember what show was playing when he found the station, but does know it was intriguing enough to save the station in his vehicle.
“In short order, it seemed like that was the only thing I was listening to whenever I was driving around in the truck or coming to work,” Bakken said. “There are just so many interesting discussions about faith and current events and how they play out in a Catholic perspective depending on the shows you’re listening to.”
Bakken said he has heard stories on the radio about people hearing a program, having a large conversion and changing their lives completely, that’s not him.
Bakken said there was a time in his life where he had fallen away from the Catholic Church, but in 2008 he began his journey back. By the time he moved to Bemidji, he was regularly attending Mass and gradually becoming involved with the parish.
“When I think about my life now, I’m in the Knights of Columbus, I help out at different functions at St. Philip’s when they’re doing fundraiser events and I usher and sing in various choirs,” he said. “It seems like all of my spare time seems to be related to something at St. Philip’s or the Knights of Columbus.”
He said he never would have been involved so much prior to listening.
“It’s like instead of opening flood gates and having this major change, it’s like somebody just opened a constant trickle of information that’s just gradually pushing me along in a direction that I had never went before.”
He said Real Presence Radio combined with getting more and more involved in parish life has helped build a tidal wave to keep him moving in a good direction.
Recently Bakken has started praying with a group from St. Philip’s outside the Planned Parenthood office in Bemidji on the third Saturday of each month.
“That’s something I would have previously never been involved with,” he said. He credits the frequent pro-life content he hears on Real Presence Radio.
“There’s frequently discussions about life and abortion on different shows talking about how we need to stand up for that,” Bakken said. He knew of the monthly prayer group, but said it was something he could not see himself doing. Gradually, as he continued listening he decided it was something he should do, and then three months ago, he began praying with the group.
“I think that it just kept nudging me in that direction. I’m slow to change apparently, but if you keep pushing, eventually you’ll get there.”
AVENUE FOR EVANGELIZATION
Bakken enjoys listening to many of the programs on the network, especially some of the nation-wide call-in shows such as Catholic Answers Live and Call to Communion. He has noticed people tend to call with the same questions about Catholics praying to Mary or why we confess our sins to a priest. Bakken said he sometimes gets tired of hearing about the same topics, but sees it as a sign of effective evangelization.
“The radio is reaching new people all the time because these new people that still have the same questions are calling in, where if they had listened for a few days, they probably would have found their answer,” he said.
Father Chuck Huck, Pastor of St. Philip, Bemidji and St. Charles, Pennington, notices the Holy Spirit at work evangelizing through the radio.
“When they’ve done a segment on divorce, when they’ve done a segment on annulments, I notice there’s a little uptick in people who come in with questions about it because they didn’t catch everything in the brief radio show, but what they caught was enough to make them say ‘I need to talk about this.’ That’s what the Holy Spirit was prompting to, so I see that as evangelization, I see that as a great tool,” Father Huck said.
Within the parish, Father Huck said parishioners talk about what they heard on the radio and appreciate having answers when questions of faith come up at family and social gatherings.
“They’re able to say ‘well this is what I heard,’ or they’re able to say, ‘no, this is what the Church teaches, this is what the Catholic Church says about that.’ There’s some clarity for them,” said Father Huck.
He said the national program, Catholic Answers Live is great because many of the questions being asked around the country are the same as ones being asked locally.
“When I have parishioners come to me and say, ‘you know Father, you talked about this at Mass, and then on Catholic Answers Live, someone asked a question and I felt good that I knew the answer’, or ‘I learned more about it’, or ‘it reinforced what you said.’ I think that’s fantastic,” Father Huck said. “It means people are listening to a message about Jesus Christ and it means they’re responding to that message.”