Story by Jan Schultz
IMPERIAL (SNR) - After more than a year of planning, eight new Nebraska affiliate stations of the Spirit Catholic Radio Network in Nebraska are on the air or soon will be, four of which are in the Lincoln Diocese.
One of the most recent to hit the airwaves was the affiliate station in Imperial, which started broadcasting June 10.
The eight new stations in Nebraska, and one more in Boyd, Wisc., are streaming programs originating from Omaha-based Spirit Catholic Radio, joining a host of other stations now operating throughout the state.
Other new stations in the Lincoln Diocese are in McCook, Beatrice and Holdrege, with York, Alliance, Scottsbluff/Gering and Sidney also on the air.
On April 1, the McCook station was the first of the eight to be on the air. In Holdrege, the last of the stations to start up, was expected to be up and running by the end of June, said Mark Voris of Omaha, chief engineer with Spirit Catholic Radio Network.
The low-power FMs are affiliates of high-power Spirit Catholic Radio stations in Omaha, Grand Island, North Platte and northeastern Nebraska, Voris said, with two translators in Chadron and Columbus.
With this recent group of Nebraska stations on the air, Voris said most of the state can now access a Catholic radio station.
“We now are covering every community in the state with a population of 2,000 or more,” he said.
Local boards of directors in each community have worked with the necessary federal and local agencies, including the FAA, FCC and local zoning boards, to get their radio stations on the air. Voris noted that each individual station is owned by the organized group in that community, which will also keep up its maintenance.
In late 2013, the FCC offered applications to non-profit organizations for establishing low-power FM stations (100 watt). Interested communities then had until the end of July of this year to be on the air, Voris said.
Once the licenses were approved, the local board and others in each of the eight Nebraska communities had a lot of work to do: finding a site for the tower, purchasing equipment and completing the legal and other paperwork required by local zoning boards and airport authorities. Fundraising was also part of the efforts.
Range for the 100-watt stations is 7 to 10 miles from the transmitter. Reception in vehicles is about 20 miles at this time, Voris said. However, efforts are underway to get the current 100-watt powered stations increased to 250 watts, and all eight of the new affiliates in Nebraska are working toward that, he said. Upgrading to 250 watts will strengthen the reception within their service areas.
Local donations are funding the radio stations, which in Imperial was estimated at about $12,000. Continued fundraising will be necessary for the monthly internet charges and other ongoing costs.
Those familiar with Spirit Catholic Radio emphasize the programming is not intended just for Catholics. Several national call-in shows are part of the programming.
One regular radio program is “Kresta in the Afternoon,” featuring journalist and author Al Kresta, who is heard on more than 160 stations in the U.S. Kresta’s call-in show takes questions from all denominations on relevant faith issues. He also offers a show occasionally only for non-Catholic callers.
Kresta also takes a Christian look at news of the day, including current event issues such as immigration and U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
Another call-in show, “The Doctor Is In,” features Dr. Ray Guarendi, a father of 10 children, who is a clinical psychologist, author, public speaker and nationally-syndicated radio host.
In addition, Spirit Catholic Radio features talks or instruction on the Catechism or the faith, short teaching moments such as Saint of the Day and daily reflections, music in the afternoon, other talk radio, a live morning program originating in Omaha and more.
In Imperial, Father Bernard Lorenz, pastor of St. Patrick Parish and a member of the local radio station board, said it’s great to have the station up and running after more than a year of work.
“My hope is that it will stimulate conversation among Christians in our community and motivate them to study the faith more and talk to each other about it,” he said.
He noted the programming is kind evangelization, respectful and thoughtful.
“I hope people of all faiths will listen and think more about eternal salvation,” he said.
It’s possible in the future that occasional local programming will also be added to program lineups at each individual affiliate.