Catholic Center Basement Hosts Spanish ‘Radio-Thon’
Published: December 9, 2010
As business is conducted in the background during the radio marathon for the Spanish Catholic radio program, “Nuestra Fe” (Our Faith), phone screeners (l-r) Carmela and Marybel Trevino take calls and Eunilde De-Lora fills out her pledge paperwork following a call. (Photos by Michael Alexander)
ATLANTA—In a small room in the basement of the Catholic Center, the energy of a pledge drive, the fire of a revival, and the joy of a faith community seem to be simultaneously ignited.
Although the space is small, every square inch is full and in action. In the center, Father Guillermo Cordoba and Father Manuel Rivas, wearing radio headphones, are listening and talking to callers on the air. Several laymen, Juan Diaz and Jose Caceres, who are regular “on air” volunteers for the Catholic Spanish-language program “Nuestra Fe” (Our Faith), also are talking to people on the air by turns.
They are talking about the way the Gospel message can be proclaimed by radio, and the need for support to make that happen. They are also sharing the Gospel and praying for those who call.
During the radiothon German Medina, sitting right, of Our Lady of the Americas Mission, Lilburn, reads off pledges over the air, Missionaries of St. Charles - Scalabrinians Father Jacques Fabre, sitting left, administrator of San Felipe de Jesus Catholic Mission, reads Scripture over the air, and Juan Diaz, standing right, the host of the daily Spanish Catholic radio program, “Nuestra Fe” (Our Faith), rallies listeners to call in and make a monetary pledge.
Around the perimeter of the room, volunteers sitting shoulder to shoulder are answering phone calls from donors. When they are not on the phone, they are quietly praying.
On a wall over their heads, a bulletin board fills rapidly with post-it notes as prayer requests from callers are recorded. One of the on-air people kneels and prays for them out loud. The needs are also being forwarded to a prayer team assembled before the Blessed Sacrament at Our Lady of the Americas Mission in Lilburn.
Outside in a hallway, information from donors is being gathered and recorded by more volunteers.
It is the scene at the first radio-thon, seeking to increase support for fledgling Spanish Catholic radio in the archdiocese. The first phase took place Nov. 15 to 19 at the Catholic Center for two hours a day and continued from noon to 4 p.m. at Our Lady of the Americas on Nov. 20.
The goal was to bring the hearts of people into caring about this outreach to Hispanics in North Georgia, many of whom need to be reached beyond traditional church boundaries. The goal was set not in terms of dollars, but of people.
“We set a goal of having a thousand founders,” said Jairo Martinez, director of the Hispanic Ministry office of the archdiocese.
“The dream is having a thousand people who will support this for the rest of their lives,” he said.
“Nuestra Fe” is less than a year old. It is a program of the Communications Department of the Atlanta Archdiocese, primarily accomplished so far through volunteer efforts and a limited amount of funding.
“Nuestra Fe” is a live broadcast, Monday through Friday, from 10 to 11 a.m. on radio station La Bonita 610 AM. The station also broadcasts Sunday Mass live at 10 a.m. from Our Lady of the Americas Mission. Recently the Catholic station owner, Teresa Esquivel, donated an additional hour of time on Monday evenings at 8 p.m. when local priests lead an hour of praise to God and callers can, in turn, express their praise in word and song.
Asked how the radio programs are helping to bring the Gospel to Hispanics here, Martinez said, “It has been a wonderful way.”
“Based on the numbers we have officially in the archdiocese, almost half of the Catholics are Hispanics,” he said. “We are talking about 350,000 people. Based on the attendance at Mass every weekend, we can say that around 80,000 go to Mass. Our question is, who is serving the rest.”
“We hope through the media we can achieve that goal,” he said.
Stories coming from callers have moved him because they confirm that they are reaching people with the Gospel who are otherwise unable to go to church.
“Some cannot afford transportation. Some don’t know how to drive. Maybe they are sick, maybe they have a conflict with a work schedule. We have received calls from people who are working and listening to us. The other day there was a moving call from a lady. … She said now that I am blind I realized I need to go back to the Lord and learn more about the Lord. I cannot drive. I cannot read. Now I can listen to the radio. It was so moving to me, that testimony.”
The prayer connection is not a casual link for those involved in “Nuestra Fe.”
All of the 500 yellow post-it notes that were recorded during the first phase of the radio-thon have been transferred to a binder that Martinez carries with him and that will be kept as part of the ministry.
He also reaches into his jacket pocket where he has a small journal. It’s his place to write down the names and intentions of those who call for prayer each day during the program. They have formed a prayer chain by asking listeners to record the prayer requests they hear and then stop at
6 p.m. wherever they are and pray for those needs.
“Nuestra Fe … is a very interactive program,” Martinez said. “We have the presence of a priest every day. They have a reflection. We have several calls from people saying what the Gospel means to them, asking for prayers. Almost every call they say they would like to have more programs, more Catholic programs. That is the goal—to increase the Catholic programming.”
About eight priests regularly spend time on air with the programs, often using part of their day off from parish work to help. In the last few months, layman German Medina has joined as a volunteer on the air.
They would like to continue with “Nuestra Fe” and add additional Catholic programs to reach a different audience at an additional time, perhaps youth or some aspect on the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
To do more, they need to receive support from their listeners and beyond.
To prepare for this first radio-thon they looked to Radio Paz in the Archdiocese of Miami, a 24/7 Catholic radio station with 20 years of experience. Gonzalo Penagos, director of operations there, has been a consultant to efforts here and Martinez and Diaz went and experienced one of their radio-thons, which they do quarterly. Although part of the Miami Archdiocese, the station is self-sustaining, Martinez said.
When they returned, they trained volunteers here, most of whom had never done anything like this before, in how to answer phones and speak to and relate to callers.
The volunteers included six Hispanic priests, two deacons and two sisters as well as lay people and Auxiliary Bishop Luis Zarama.
“It was a beautiful experience with these volunteers,” Martinez said. “It was so wonderful to work with them and see that they are people of faith. I loved to look at them and see the love with which they served people and did their best to help with this radio-thon.”
He is elated about the results of the first phase.
“For this radio-thon there are 260 people committed to support the project. That is what I am so glad about. It is a great achievement,” he said.
They have received pledges for about $17,000 so far, which they are in the process of collecting.
“We are so thankful for all the help of so many offices,” he said. “The Communications Department, the Facilities Office, the priests, deacons and sisters, all the volunteers, our brothers and sisters at Radio Paz.”
They pray for the Lord’s blessing on their efforts. One step at a time, they hope to increase Catholic programs in Spanish. Perhaps some day they can achieve what has been done in Miami.
“The dream is to have a Catholic radio station, 24/7, if that is the will of the Lord,” Martinez said.
Anyone who would like to donate can do so online at www.nuestrafe.net.