Don’t touch that dial: Catholic radio station seeks to own drive time
By Gail Finke
Sacred Heart Catholic Radio wants to be your go-to station for drive time, beginning Sept. 4.
As area workers and students settle into their fall routine after Labor Day weekend, Sacred Heart Radio will launch “Driving Home the Faith,” a 4-6 p.m. program hosted by Father Rob Jack. The second daily talk show to be produced by the Norwood-based station that reaches most of the archdiocese, all of the Diocese of Covington, and parts of southeast Indiana; it will complement the popular, 10-year-old “Son Rise Morning Show.”
“A morning drive program is designed to stimulate you, to get your brain engaged,” said Bill Levitt, general manager of the station that has grown steadily in the 18 years since a group of investors bought WNOP 740, a long-time AM jazz station known for being broadcast from a barge on the Ohio River, and began playing syndicated Catholic programs 24 hours a day.
“Morning segments are a few minutes long, and the guests are the stars,” Levitt said. “But on the way home, you’ve been engaged all day. You want time to unwind. Father Rob will set the tone with a monologue, or a homily if you will. And the segments may be 10-15 minutes long.
“In one of the promos, they talk about it being like the Road to Emmaus – Father Rob and the guests bringing the word of
the Lord to us, so that by the time we get home to reunite with our families, our hearts are burning.”
After producing seasonal specials and short daily prayer segments in its first years, Sacred Heart Radio launched its 6-9 a.m. morning show. Originally hosted by Cincinnati television anchor Brian Patrick, it’s now hosted by Anna Mitchell and Matt Swaim. In typical talk show fashion, sports commenter Paul Lachmann frequently chimes in with banter.
The station’s second daily offering was conventual Mass celebrated by Dominican friars and chanted by the dozen or so men spending their first year as novices at St. Gertrude Priory and Parish in Madeira, broadcast weekdays at noon when most Catholic stations run a syndicated Mass from EWTN. The St. Gertrude Mass, Levitt said, fulfills two of the station’s objectives: to share unique local happenings, and to highlight that the church is young and vital.
The new show seeks to lure listeners during one of radio’s hottest time slots. Like the morning show, “Driving Home the Faith” will include frequent traffic, sports, and weather updates, so that listeners don’t have to turn the channel for that vital information. And it will launch with a host familiar to Sacred Heart Radio listeners.
“I’ve been involved with the station since before it was a station,” said Father Jack, whose Lenten talks are played every year and are among the station’s most frequently requested CDs.
“Radio is a way to reach people who aren’t coming to church or parish events – it goes to them. I’ve been doing that by making rosaries [he’s distributed almost 9,000] and recording talks [he’s distributed 85,000 recordings of the rosary, and 300,000 of talks]. But this is a way to do it for two hours every day.”
Talking to a wide variety of people is also nothing new to the former seminary instructor. For the last 18 years he’s taught courses on a range of theological subjects to seminarians and laypeople, and delivered talks and missions at parishes around the archdiocese. “It’ll be a different type of teaching,” he said. “My students won’t be right in front of me, and I won’t have to evaluate them. But it’s still teaching. “
Only two afternoon drive time radio talk programs are still produced locally. One is a sports program, and the other is an often-raunchy take on events. “Driving Home the Faith” will replace a syndicated program, “Kresta in the Afternoon.” Hosted by former Evangelical pastor Al Kresta, the talk show produced by Ave Maria Radio in Ann Arbor, Michigan, deals with cultural and political issues from a Catholic perspective.
The new program won’t be a Cincinnati version of the same show. “Kresta is a commenter,” Levitt explained. “Father Rob is a priest. Most Catholics don’t have daily access to a priest.
“And commentary on national issues is often negative,” he added. “This program will allow us to celebrate our local Catholic community. We’ll have the opportunity to showcase the great things the parishes, schools, and Catholic-owned businesses here are doing on a daily basis.”
Father Jack said he’s planning the program around what he calls three concentric circles: news, the local church, and personal faith.
“The news of the day concerns the universal church,” he said. “Speaking with people from around the listening area – that’s the local church.
“We’ll also talk about prayer and how to live your faith in your family. As a church, we have not done a good job of promoting the family as a place where God’s grace grows, and our culture has become one of isolation. But God is a communion of persons, and the union of faith and life is prayer. We want to make visible the signs of the Kingdom, to – as Pope Benedict said – propose the faith, not impose it.”
“‘Driving Home the Faith’ will be a first in all of Catholic radio, a daily program hosted by a priest,” Levitt said. “We want everyon to have SHR as a preset on their radios, as thousands do already. In fact, with three frequencies, we can fill three presets, from Dry Ridge, Kentucky, to Dayton and beyond.”
“We want people to be so engaged that they’ll sit in their driveways listening,” Father Jack said. “We want them to be happy to be home, but to say, ‘I’ve got to hear this last bit before I turn off the engine.’”
“Driving Home the Faith” will be broadcast from 4-6 p.m. on Sacred Heart Radio (740 AM – Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, 89.5 FM – Hamilton, and 910 AM – Northern Cincinnati, Middletown, and Dayton) beginning Sept. 4. Listen online at SacredHeartRadio.com, or by smartphone with the station’s Apple or Google Play apps.
Click to read companion articles “Station’s longtime goal: A priest on the radio every day” and “Media Catholics of the 20th century.”