By Dan Russo | Witness Editor
DUBUQUE — People searching for something to listen to on the radio in the Dubuque area may have been surprised recently to come across the sound of people praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet or a call-in talk show on common questions about the Catholic faith.
That’s because a new presence is on the airwaves. Since Feb 24, KCRD 98.3 FM has been broadcasting 24 hours a day. The low-watt station, which has a radius of about 10 to 15 miles around Dubuque, is a faith-based operation run by Aquinas Communications. KCRD was founded by a group of lay people.
“In 2013, the (Federal Communications Commission) FCC opened a window for low power FM, roughly 100 watt stations,” explained Aquinas Communications President Tom Oglesby. “Most commercial stations are between 25,000 to 100,000 watts. These low watt stations are designed to serve a local community.”
KCRD is mostly broadcasting nationally syndicated content from Relevant Radio, a programmer from Green Bay, Wis., and EWTN, a network based in Atlanta, Georgia.
“We’re really excited,” said Aquinas Communications Board Member Dick Bergeson. “We’re looking to get the best programming we can find. It helps deepen your faith.”
It took a lot of preparation before going on the air. Over a year ago, after holding an informational meeting, Aquinas’ board of directors applied for a station permit through the FCC and incorporated as a non-profit organization. A core group of about a dozen volunteers, most of them Catholics from Dubuque, spent nights and weekends working on the project. For Oglesby, who worked in radio as a young man and now has a career in the financial services industry, it was a labor of love.
“I think something in my heart has listened to God on this,” he said. “It’s brought me closer to God because it’s been a lesson in patience and humility.”
Aquinas Communications takes its name from their patron, St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the most famous priests and doctors in church history. Their logo is an ox, inspired by the story of the saint’s life. St. Thomas was called a “dumb ox” because he was big, clumsy and quiet as a youth. One day, his teacher, St. Albert the Great, is reported to have said, “One day that dumb ox will bellow so loud the whole world will hear him.”
The station’s organizers are hoping to “bellow” as much as possible, educating and evangelizing through radio. Aquinas Communications and KCRD are not affiliated with the Archdiocese of Dubuque and don’t receive any funding from it. The station may not refer to itself as “Catholic,” though they may use Catholic programming approved elsewhere. The station has gotten the bulk of its financial support from individuals.
“We’re entirely funded by donations,” said Oglesby. “We’ve been blessed with an outpouring of prayers and cash. I think that prayer always precedes the funds. I think the people on the board and in the community are very prayerful people.”
The station is currently leasing space from a commercial radio station on University Avenue for its tower. Computers and other equipment are now in Oglesby’s home. Eventually, organizers hope to develop enough resources to have a studio and produce their own original programming.
“We’re looking for volunteers, particularly with social media and communications experience,” said the president.
KCRD is not the first radio station of its kind in the area. KCRM 96.7 FM in Marshalltown is another station which broadcasts nationally syndicated Catholic programs produced elsewhere. It has been on the air since 2003.
This story is provided courtesy of The Witness, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Dubuque.