Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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Sacred Heart Radio a ‘Holy Spirit-driven operation,’ says founder
by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register
(From the January 19, 2012 edition of the Inland Register)
Ron Belter is the founder of Sacred Heart Radio, with stations of Catholic programming in Eastern and Western Washington. (IR photo courtesy of Sacred Heart Radio)
Ron Belter is convinced that “The Holy Spirit kind of set it all up.”
“It” being Catholic radio in Washington State – Sacred Heart Radio, heard in Seattle as KBLE AM 1050 and, since 2005, in Spokane as KTTO AM 970, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Belter, a former real estate appraiser, converted to Catholicism before marrying his wife, Bernadette, in 1987. Before joining the Church, his religious affiliation was “pretty much nothing,” he said.
He also has background in electronics – repairing bank alarms, ATMs, that sort of thing – but nothing specifically tied to radio.
He was at a parish mission some years ago. He’d long been bothered by some of the content he heard on some Protestant radio stations, disparaging other denominations, especially Catholicism. At the end of the conference, the speaker asked for questions, and Belter had one for him: “If we wanted to start a Catholic radio station, would we have to have the permission of the archbishop?”
As it so happened, the speaker told him to turn around, and there, holding out a business card, was a regional representative for EWTN, the global Catholic media venture that involves TV, the internet, and radio as well.
“He was smiling,” said Belter, “from ear to ear.”
A group of laity eventually came together to explore the possibility of Catholic radio broadcasting. The effort began by purchasing some air time on a local religious station where the rosary was already being broadcast. The group paid to broadcast the EWTN program Catholic Answers Live for about 18 months as they gathered the expertise and finances to launch their own station.
In what Belter calls “stepping out in faith,” they began making phone calls to see if any stations were available. “Very generous” donations made possible the purchase of what became KBLE, Sacred Heart Radio’s first AM station, serving the Seattle area.
Most of the programming originates from EWTN, but the Seattle station began offering local content, including recitation of the rosary, then locally-produced discussion programs.
Archbishop Alex J. Brunett, then Archbishop of Seattle, began hosting an hour-long live call-in program in October 2006. Other programming offered locally in Seattle includes discussion/interview programs, vocations insights, as well as live coverage of significant Catholic events, such as ordinations and, in 2010, the installation of Bishop Cupich as Bishop of Spokane.
But it was in 2005 that Sacred Heart Radio entered the Spokane market.
The Poor Clare Sisters of the Monastery of St. Clare in North Spokane had been researching the possibility of establishing a Catholic radio station for Eastern Washington. The Sisters had been buying time locally to offer programming they produced, but costs were increasing and airtime was becoming more dear.
The Sisters had talked to Belter about the challenges of starting a Catholic station, and after a long period of real discernment, agreed to house KTTO.
“We’re very happy to be partnered with them, to join forces with them,” he said. “That sense of prayer behind it, for us, is so awesome.”
Bishop William Skylstad, Bishop Emeritus of the Spokane Diocese, began his program, Time with the Bishop, shortly after the Spokane station went on the air. Bishop Cupich has since taken that program over, discussing current topics facing the Church and his own ministry as bishop.
A new edition of Time with the Bishop is recorded and repeats three times each week for two weeks: Monday, 6 p.m.; Thursday, 4:30 p.m.; and Saturday, 2 p.m.
Almost from the beginning, Belter had response from listeners who would call, who would write, talking about the difference the programming made in their lives. He has “boxes” of letters people have written, thanking Sacred Heart Radio for its presence.
People write to say “God bless you, you’re my crutch, I’m homebound, I’m blind, this is my friend – lots of that type of stuff,” said Belter. “It’s not about me, it’s about the great ways the Holy Spirit is touching people’s lives.
“One of the most amazing things,” he said, is that “so many people have said ‘I tuned in right at the moment, I was facing a dilemma, I needed some help, I tuned in, and there was the answer.’ I’ve heard that from dozens of people, whether it was the answer to a question, or spiritual guidance, or reflection. Not a coincidence, but a God incident. That seems to happen frequently.”
He takes no credit for whatever success comes to Sacred Heart Radio.
“I can say truly it’s a Holy Spirit-driven operation,” said Belter. “If it were about me, it never would have gotten off the ground. Would not work. Through the airwaves people are being touched in ways they never have been before. People normally don’t go to a radio station and start crying and tell their life stories. We get that.”
The station is listener supported, through twice-annual pledge drives. He’s grateful for that level of support, and for the involvement of Bishop Cupich, “and very thankful for the Sisters, for all the hard work they’re doing.
After all, it was the pope himself to asked Marconi, the inventor of radio as we know it, to bring radio to the Vatican. “To this day, many bishops have seen the fruits” of Catholic radio broadcasting “and have really jumped on board. We keep that in prayer, and ask for prayers.”
(Sacred Heart Radio is heard in Eastern Washington 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on KTTO AM 970. Past editions of Bishop Cupich’s Time with the Bishop are archived on Sacred Heart Radio’s web site: sacredheartradio.org/archivetimebishop.html)