Seven days a week, polkas and classic country songs entertain listeners in the Hartford area at 104.9 FM. Each day at 4:15 p.m. Catholics tune in for a sacred interlude – to pray the rosary.
Since Jan. 1, 1975, the daily rosary broadcast has flourished, supported by donations from its listeners and sponsors, and sustained through the efforts of Ron Weber, a member of the St. Kilian Holy Name Society. Over the years, different pastors at St. Kilian have led the rosary, which is pre-recorded with a group of volunteers.
For Weber, the rosary project has been a work of faith. Frank Stretz, then president of St. Kilian Holy Name Society, proposed the idea and initiated the daily rosary on WTKM AM and FM stations. Weber helped Stretz the first year and then took charge of it completely in 1977. About 15 years ago, the program shifted to 1540 AM only, but as of a year ago, it was switched back to the FM station and Internet.
“We wanted to run it as a trial and see how it worked out,” said Weber.
“It was kind of an experiment,” agreed Scott Lopas, WTKM owner and general manager. “We were not real sure at the time how the listening audience would respond. We had no track record. We expected, since not everyone is interested in praying the rosary, there might be calls from people who thought it was an interruption to news, music or programs, and
|Name: Ron Weber
Parish: St. Kilian Parish, Hartford
Recently read: Medical magazines about diabetes
Favorite movie: “Miracle on 34th Street”
Favorite quotation: “You got to work for what you want” (Ron’s life motto)
(Catholic Herald photo by Tracy Rusch)
while we did get some calls like that, we had an overwhelming response in favor of continuing this program on a daily basis. Obviously, it went beyond our expectations.”
Weber credits the success of the rosary broadcast to Mary.
“The Blessed Mother has kept it going because that was my prayer to her,” he said.
Weber said he has always had a personal devotion to Mary, defined as “in daily life you pray to Mary for guidance and help.” Weber has participated in Our Lady of Perpetual Help devotions at St. Kilian Church since moving to town in 1948.
“I’ve followed Perpetual Help devotions. I led it for four or five years, twice a week. It consists of novena prayers in church at St. Kilian,” Weber said. “I’d never quit a devotion to Mary, because I’d feel very lost if I didn’t have her praying for me in heaven. If you’ve got a devotion to Mary, you are going to automatically have a stronger devotion to Jesus, because they go hand in hand.”
Within its 50-mile radius, the rosary broadcast has generated significant listener support and feedback. This past year Weber gathered $5,000 from just radio listeners. Many of those listeners are elderly shut-ins.
“It means a lot to them,” said St. Kilian pastor Fr. David La Plante.
The rosary program costs $140 a week. Lopas remembers the tough times when Weber would ask him to add a tagline asking listeners if they would consider sponsoring the program. Last year, Weber had only one month of sponsorship ahead of time. It was real “touch and go,” he said.
Lopas said, “I remember him being anxious.… He’d say, ‘Well, I’m not sure about next year, but this year will work.’ I remember him saying that many times. We just take it year by year, month by month.”
There are usually two or three sponsors a week. The Knights of Columbus have been strong supporters and sponsors of the rosary broadcast, said Weber, a Grand Knight who has served as a Fourth Degree Navigator. Since 2001, Greg Ledesma at Berndt-Ledesma Funeral Home has offered to pay the costs when Weber doesn’t have enough sponsors.
“If I need somebody,” said Weber, “I just bill him.”
|For more information,
call Ron Weber at
To be a sponsor of the rosary, send donations to
St. Kilian Holy Name Society, 428 Forest St., Hartford, WI 53027.
Weber grew up helping on his family’s farm just south of Hartford in Thompson. As a boy, he and his family attended St. Patrick mission church where he was an altar boy. They always celebrated Sundays on the farm.
“Growing up on the farm, Sundays were Sundays. You got done with your chores, went to church, and the rest of the day was free,” said Weber.
In 1948 his family moved to Hartford, and Weber attended St. Kilian School for a year. Like many in his generation, Weber grew up with a sense of religious duty.
“If there’s church tonight, you go,” he recalled.
As Weber served his duty to God, he also served his country. He was in the Army from 1956-1958 and was in charge of anti-aircraft Nike missiles. On May 22, 1957, Weber married Rose Horst of Rubicon at St. Kilian Church. They raised two boys and three girls, all of whom attended St. Kilian School. Weber and Rose were active in parish groups, ministries and the local community.
Lopas crossed paths with Weber and Rose often, traveling with Weber on several WTKM tours, and seeing them at dances hosted by the radio station.
“They were quite visible volunteering in the area,” said Lopas. In a phrase, they were “salt of the earth,” added Lopas, “really down to earth people, caring, compassionate people, ready to extend a friendly hello or a handshake. I really enjoyed being in their company.”
Weber joined the St. Kilian Holy Name Society, which now funds the radio rosary broadcast when there is not sufficient sponsorship from other donors. Just a week before Rose died, both Weber and Rose had signed up to be cooks at the parish’s first Christ Have Mercy retreats. They were both ushers and worked regular cleaning hours at the church. Today, Weber still helps as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and in funeral ministry.
Fr. La Plante appreciates Weber’s handy man skills, which he has also contributed unsparingly to his parish.
“He has fixed the church vacuum cleaners and resurrected vacuum cleaners that didn’t work and were thrown out,” said Fr. La Plante.
Their faith is evident in Weber and Rose’s involvement and in their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, said Fr. La Plante. They are leaving a legacy of faith through the generations of their family, who actively serve in parish liturgies and in the religious education program. This year, Weber and Rose won the 2010 Spirit of St. Kilian Award, given to “exceptional parishioners for extraordinary and lifelong commitment to parish ministries.” Two weeks after the parish council had voted them as award recipients, Rose died on Oct, 24. They presented the award when the whole family was gathered together at Rose’s funeral. Rose was a “main character in this rosary effort” said Weber. She would type up the prayer intentions and “make it all kosher for the radio station.” Now, Weber’s daughters assist him in typing the prayer intentions and sending them to the radio station and parish bulletin.
Weber encourages anyone who wants to send in a special intention to do so.
“Any amount is appreciated,” Weber says. “With $55 or more, they get their name and special intention mentioned. Any amount under $55 they get grouped together until there’s enough money for the whole group.” In the latter case, Weber will have the rosary offered “for the special intentions of several anonymous donors.”
Weber hopes other groups will take charge of continuing the daily rosary broadcast. Lopas, who has been open to the rosary project since it began, doesn’t underestimate that probability.
“The question that comes to mind is, ‘What does the future hold for this kind of program?’ Lopas said. “As long as we have listener and monetary support, it looks like it will keep going. They (the listeners) seem to get a lot of comfort from it.”