Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Poor Clare Sisters launch radio ministry with book proceeds
by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff
(From the Oct. 23, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)
The Poor Clares Monastery in north Spokane looks much the same on the outside as it always has – solid, sturdy, even peaceful. Inside, though, it’s become a powerhouse of activity and excitement, along with some occasional fear and trembling. The reason? The Northwest Catholic Hour, the Poor Clares’ new radio ministry.
The weekly radio hour debuted Sunday, Oct. 5, on station KGA at 1510 on the AM frequency. Poor Clare Sister Patricia Proctor has been the spark behind the program, going from an idea to have an entire Catholic radio station to a one-hour program once a week, which, according to Sister Patricia, may be a blessing in disguise.
Sister Patricia did not start out to have a radio ministry. However, she did write a book about the rosary last year, titled 101 Inspirational Stories of the Rosary. In fact, the book is the reason the Sisters have the radio show in the first place.
The book proved popular with the reading public and was been on the Catholic books best-seller lists for five months. The book was compiled, Sister Patricia said, to “help spread devotion to the rosary. We didn’t ever intend to make a profit; that has been a bonus.”
The book’s success can be partly attributed to its promotion. One method is to talk about books on the radio. Sister Patricia carries out an extensive daily e-mail ministry called the Peace Card, and through that ministry, has a friend involved with Radio Maria, a station heard in Louisiana and Texas. So, wanting to promote the book, she and the other Poor Clare Sisters taped some radio spots for that station.
However, the radio promotion got Sister Patricia thinking. “Here we are promoting the book in the south; how about in our own diocese? Maybe we should have a Catholic station in Spokane.”
She said she couldn’t really pinpoint exactly when the idea changed. But one thing she’s absolutely sure of: the Holy Spirit “is the driving force” behind the whole thing.
She met with Bishop William Skylstad. She talked with other friends who had radio experience, primarily Deacon Eric Meisfjord of Spokane, Director of Communications for the diocese and editor of this newspaper.
Deacon Meisfjord proved another blessing since he has a strong background in radio shows. He ran a campus radio station when he was in graduate school at the University of Portland and has written and recorded diocesan radio spots locally. He loves working in the medium, he said, and it was only natural to get involved in this new venture. He became the show’s writer and also co-host. Sister Patricia described their working arrangement this way: “He does the writing; I do the agreeing.”
Sister Patricia admits to the fear and trembling; “the learning curve has been huge,” she said. Even so, she has deep faith in the project and a strong belief in the power of prayer necessary to carry it out.
Prayer has been needed from the very beginning. Through the Peace Card network, Sister Patricia confessed her disappointment in hearing the first show, saying that everyone’s voices sounded strange. Later she learned there were radio frequency problems, and the monastery did not get good radio reception that night. The next Peace Card brought a sigh of relief. The second show suffered all manner of difficulties before it was finally recorded and aired, with another sigh of relief.
Now, with three shows behind her, Sister Patricia can relax a bit. She talks about mixing, editing and even about the recording studio that will soon take up space in the monastery. She may be a novice at radio broadcasting, but even in the first program, she sounded very professional, with the warmth of her personality coming through her voice.
The show is divided into two segments with half an hour of local Catholic features and a half hour of national programming from the U.S. Catholic Communications Campaign. Donations given to the diocesan Collection for the Church in the United States each May help support the work of the campaign.
So far, local programs have featured Father Darrin Connall, vocations director at Bishop White Seminary; a visit with some boys from Morning Star Boys Ranch; Jesuit Father Matthew Gamber interviewing Gonzaga University college students; Father Rory Pitstick, pastor and Scripture scholar from Okanogan, giving a Scripture reflection; and an interview with Deacon Meisfjord on his third ministry, puppeteering with his wife, Kate, for the city and county library systems and other groups. The shows also include stories from the rosary book and a calendar of local Catholic events for each week.
Bishop Skylstad was featured in one of the national segments, as part of a reflection on the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II.
“I’ve often wished we could do something in radio,” the bishop said. “The bishops of the region even talked about it one time.” He was pleased that KGA was being used since it’s a “fairly powerful radio station that has a lot of coverage beyond the diocese. This could be very beneficial if people respond by listening.”
Bishop Skylstad said church documents “suggest we use modern means of communication to spread the Gospel. This would certainly be one of the ways.”
He also praised Sister Patricia’s work: “I have a lot of respect for her expertise,” he said. “She’s very creative.”
Sister Patricia would be the last to take credit, giving it all to the Holy Spirit. That’s how a cloistered Sister in the Diocese of Spokane can reach out to do what the Church documents suggest: to spread the Gospel.
The Sisters plan to continue The Northwest Catholic Hour on a trial basis for one year. “We hope the book will support it during that time,” Sister Patricia said. “But we’re trying to see if we can build up financial support in other ways when that’s gone.”
(Donations to the Sisters’ radio ministry would be most welcome. Send them to the Poor Clares Monastery, 4419 N. Hawthorne, Spokane, WA 99205. Be sure to earmark them for The Northwest Catholic Hour. To listen to The Northwest Catholic Hour, tune in KGA station 1510 on the AM radio frequency at 9 p.m. each Sunday evening. The program also has its own web site.)