With the blessing of a bishop and a flip of a switch, St. Jude Catholic Church in Mansfield went live on its new radio station last week.
It’s on the dial -- KYRE-LP 104.1 FM, a small, low-power radio station transmitting from behind the church altar.
And it’s the only church-based radio operating in the 90 parishes of the 29-county Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth.
Not that it’s a competition for Father George Foley, who has led the church for nine years. It’s about reaching out, he said.
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“You may not bring the lost to the church,” he said, “but you can bring the church to the lost –via radio.”
For now, that 24/7 platform will be carrying the message of the Alabama-based EWTN Global Catholic Network, a television and radio broadcaster of news and other Catholic programming.
“But I can interrupt whenever I like and put in what I want,” Foley said.
To that end, parishioners are working on local content like broadcasts of worship services and community news as well as Spanish-language programs for the people who comprise at least half of the 3,400 families who attend his church at 500 E. Dallas St.
The programming could include a show in which someone discusses the Catholic faith.
“It won’t be a call-in show,” Foley said. “It will be answering the questions that people normally put to the Catholic Church.”
Once Bishop Michael Olson of the Fort Worth diocese flipped the switch Dec. 8, the special worship service was on the air for 75 minutes.
Greg Kunasek is among the parishioners excited about the station.
“We think it will put St. Jude on the map,” said Kunasek, a former Mansfield City Council member. “It helps the church accomplish its mission of evangelization. It’s exciting the possibilities that may come some day.”
While St. Jude has the only church-based radio station in the diocese, Catholic messages are floating on other waves in North Texas. The Guadalupe Radio Network, which has more than 20 Catholic radio station in Texas and New Mexico, including in the Dallas area, is seeking a Fort Worth station to extend its North Texas coverage, said Pat Svacina, communications director for the Fort Worth diocese.
“There’s a lot of good stuff you can listen to,” Svacina said. “The Catholic Church has traditionally used all communication means, starting with the printing press back then, and now Pope Francis uses Twitter and all that.”
Foley said his radio station in his gleaming year-old church – a 25,000 square-footer next to the old church – “is just another ministry to bring church to the people,” like the missions that provide for food pantries and struggling families.
He’s hoping that KYRE-LP will reach housebound people and others who may just be skipping that weekend, as well as motorists driving to work or stuck in traffic.
“So you’ll have your Christianity available in your car,” he said.
Parishioners also have reached out to the city of Mansfield, offering to relay weather warnings, Amber Alerts or notices of water-main breaks to its listeners.
Fire Chief Barry Bondurant, who said the new station is the first in Mansfield in his 30 years here, noted that the city has its CodeRED system, which automatically calls residents with such warnings.
But the radio station, he said, “just gets more information out. The more the better.”
Planning for the station began in earnest in October 2013, when the Federal Communications Commission opened a rare window of opportunity for potential radio operators in this area to apply for a license for a low-power, or LP, FM station. They must be used for non-commercial education programming only, according to the FCC.
The previous window opened in 2001, when Foley obtained a license and started a station at his previous church in Breckenridge – also part of the Fort Worth diocese. When he left for Mansfield, the station closed.
Foley scored another license for St. Jude.
“I’m entitled to 100 watts, and that’s basically what I have to broadcast with,” he said. “The FCC said I have between 70,000 and 90,000 potential listeners. We’ll have the opportunity to pump out as much of our doctrine as we want.”
Trevor Bakker, a church member who received his radio technician license earlier this year, assembled all donated equipment – some was donated by a Guadalupe network station in Dallas -- and installed the software, acquired the licensing and got it transmitting. The station can be run remotely, which will reduce the number of after-hour trips by volunteers to make adjustments. It all came to just under $15,000, he said
As a low-power station, it has to be non-commercial, although Foley said businesses can “underwrite” a program or segment.
The radio signal, Bakker said, carries six to eight miles from the church, depending on terrain and buildings, and is enough to cover most of Mansfield.
“We start to break up around Turner Warnell Road and 157 going north,” he said. “The eastern boundary seems to be around Highway 360.”
The strength in the south and west is still being assessed, he said.
Bakker said he’s especially looking forward to using the station for local coverage of activities and perhaps church and school news – all within the FCC guidelines.
“They granted us a license to be a grass-root, community radio station,” Bakker said. “We don’t reach far, but we reach the borders of Mansfield, and that’s what we’re there for.”
Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641
St. Jude Catholic Church broadcasts on KYRE-LP 104.1 FM.