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Sacred Heart Radio Celebrates 20 Years on the Air

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For 20 years, Sacred Heart Radio has brought Catholic programming to the Greater Cincinnati-area. On Jan. 1, 2001, the husband-and-wife team of Bill and Leah Levitt launched the station.

“When I heard the voice of Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk welcoming Sacred Heart Radio to the air, I was relieved,” Bill reflected. “After Leah and I had just pulled an all-nighter to get the station on (what a way to celebrate the New Year, huh?), it was more of a relief than excitement that the computers and phone lines were working.”

The radio business was nothing new for the Mitchells. Bill has more than 50 years’ experience in the business, and Leah was also previously involved with radio before the development of Sacred Heart.

IN THE BEGINNING

“My ‘call’ to create Sacred Heart Radio began the day I was surfing the cable channels and stopped on EWTN to see a nun laughing and talking in a way I’d never heard a nun speak before,” Bill said. “Mother Angelica was so different and captivating that, even though I had been away from the church for 25 years, I kept coming back to the channel, which eventually led me back to the church. Because of that reversion, I did have the fleeting thought of putting a Catholic radio station on the air. Even though I chuckled at the thought then, now I believe it was the Holy Spirit asking me to consider the possibility, if ‘called’ upon.”

“I really feel that God led us to this radio ministry and gave us the perfect foundation and work experience that helped realize the dream of Catholic radio in our community in a unique way,” Leah added. “Bill’s incredible talent of packaging and producing a radio station, the promos, the vision, the discovery of and ability to direct people is very unique and was integral to getting Sacred Heart Radio listeners on board with the dream from the beginning.”

That beginning started with carrying programs from EWTN. The station has now grown to produce their own morning and afternoon programming.

“We started with one station, two employees and a couple of computers,” Bill said. “Eventually, we added staff to begin producing the Son Rise Morning Show, now heard nationally on 400 radio stations through EWTN. Along the way, two local radio stations were added to expand our coverage over the entire Archdiocese of Cincinnati and the Diocese of Covington. More recently, Driving Home the Faith with Father Rob Jack was added to the lineup, [which is] still the only program in all of Catholic Radio to feature a priest as the daily host of a two-hour afternoon drive program.”

THE STATION TODAY

The Son Rise Morning Show began in 2007 and was hosted by Brian Patrick and Matt Swaim. Today, Swaim and co- host Anna Mitchell lead the program, talking about a variety of topics each day.

“We like to talk about anything through the lens of our Catholic faith because our Catholic faith can – and should – touch all aspects of our lives,” Mitchell said. “Our Catholicism should certainly inform how we pray and worship and read the Bible, but also how we think, how we raise a family and interact with others, how we understand current events, how we vote, how we work, how we cook, or even how we watch sports or have fun.”

Swaim agreed, “People sometimes think the Catholic faith isn’t relevant to everyday life because they haven’t taken the time to realize just how intrinsic to everyday life the faith actually is. Hopefully, listening to Sacred Heart Radio helps people make that connection!”

Mitchell and Swaim noted a rewarding part of their job is hearing from people who were impacted by their program.

“We get calls all the time from listeners who have come back to their Catholic faith or become interested in the Catholic faith for the first time,” Swaim said. “We hear account after account of people who decided to give their marriage another try, or discerned a call to religious life, priesthood, or the diaconate. We hear time and time again from people who were really struggling with their prayer life, or with depression, or guilt, or difficult relationships, who have found faith and freedom through the things they’ve heard on the airwaves. And especially during a year of pandemic restrictions, we hear [repeatedly] from people who are incredibly grateful to be able to listen to the Mass on the radio when they haven’t been able to go in person the way they’d like to. It’s truly a gift to be part of this apostolate.”

“[A] big reason why I love my job is the fact that when I’m reporting the news, I am operating in service of the Truth -with a capital T,” Mitchell said.

When looking ahead to the next 20 years and beyond, the crew from Sacred Heart Radio agree that they won’t be going anywhere.

“At 20 years old, I feel like Sacred Heart Radio has come into its own, maturing into something more than we could have ever anticipated, but that doesn’t mean it is done growing,” Leah said. “God always thinks bigger! I foresee more local programming and perhaps more network shows to give back to EWTN and the rest of the world.”

Bill added, “With God, everything is possible. You ain’t heard nothing, yet!”

The article appeared in the June 2021 Bicentennial edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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