Local Catholic radio is coming to the southeastern part of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee  this December.

WSFI 88.5 FM broke ground for its radio tower on April 8 and hopes to reach a million listeners in geographic areas within the Dioceses of Rockford, and the Archdioceses of Chicago and Milwaukee.

The studio will broadcast from St. Raphael the Archangel Parish on Route 173, east of highway 45, in Antioch, Ill.  

Sports Faith International, an organization that recognizes sports figures who lead exemplary lives, and WSFI radio are products of the nonprofit group, BVM Helping Hands. Angela Tomlinson, WSFI station manager and co-founder of Sports Faith International, Matt Tomlinson, financial advisor for Catholic Financial Life, and Patrick McCaskey, owner of the Chicago Bears and chair of Sports Faith International, serve on the board of BVM Helping Hands.

According to Angela Tomlinson, BVM was founded to assist people with accessing community services through connections with technology and media. The idea to expand the ministry through radio emerged after the FCC made broadcast licenses available to nonprofit organizations.  

“We want a presence at Catholic schools and to broadcast high school events, offering programming by the newly formed Young Catholic Advocates,” she said. “And because of the affiliation of Sports Faith International, we plan to follow the lead of Blessed John Paul II to utilize sports leaders to use their positions of influence, whether on sports talk programs or in getting a spiritual message across using other means.”

In addition to promoting Catholic musicians, singers and songwriters, WSFI plans to catechize youth. Combining Catholic moral teaching with sports advocates is part of the programming philosophy, explained Tomlinson.

“We are hoping to be a clearinghouse for people looking for services and to be able to help them,” she said. “We will have the media and resources to help them reach out to the public in this listening area. This informational system can assist people with the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy to offer other local nonprofits, help with aging parents, programming to assist baby boomers and grandchildren alike to make the best of every second the Lord gave them.”

Endorsed by Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, the not-for-profit radio will be in full compliance with the magesterium of the Catholic Church.

“Research on the impact of Catholic radio is very positive,” wrote Cardinal George in a letter of support. “One recent survey found that listeners of Catholic radio are more spiritually engaged and inspired by their faith, better educated in it, and more adequately prepared to teach their children about Catholicism. As we strive to implement Blessed John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization, Catholic radio helps us to spread the message of the Gospel and enables us to reach thousands who might never come to a parish to attend a Bible study session or Catechism class.”

As the spiritual director and one of three volunteer diocese chaplains for the station, Fr. John Jamnicky, pastor of St. Raphael the Archangel, said it will be a great opportunity to evangelize and to promote a new evangelization.

“This is a great way to communicate what is happening with the life of the church, and with all Catholics in the area, to help them get closer to the church and learn what is available to them with this new means of communication,” he said.

For Fr. Robert Weighner, pastor of St. Anne Parish, Pleasant Prairie, welcomed the invitation to serve as the chaplain for the Milwaukee Archdiocese listening area.

“It was explained to me that I will serve as the contact person for the (arch)diocese and be outreaching to the local church — sort of a personal point of reference,” he said. “I really think people will appreciate looking for something uplifting and refreshing in this Catholic station. Pat McCaskey gives examples through Sports Faith International about athletes living exemplary Catholic lives. This programming will be uplifting for many people, young and old, and should do a good job in reaching the population in the listening area.”

Fr. Weighner looks forward to spreading the news about Catholic education.

“We have St. Joseph’s Academy and All Saints here in Kenosha, and many other Catholic schools in the Milwaukee area,” he said. “These schools offer a good Catholic education and a lot of people might consider Catholic education at one of these schools.”

Considering it a good medium for district priests and their ability to contribute to the 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week programming, Fr. Weighner explained that preaching or speakers from parish missions might be featured.

“This is exciting, and one more medium that helps the whole process of evangelization,” he said. “Catholic radio is becoming more popular and this station will offer an unique opportunity to reach people in the listening area.” Karen Mahoney