RIDGEFIELD—Last July, Steve Lee of Ridgefield was listening to a podcast of an EWTN show when a fellow came on during the break and said, “If you’re interested in bringing Catholic radio to your community, call me.”
Lee, who worked in finance on Wall Street, thought about what he said and, as they say, it seemed like an offer he couldn’t refuse. When he arrived at work, he called the man back. Then, he looked for spiritual guidance. He prayed to Our Lady. He said a novena to the Holy Spirit. He sat in front of the Blessed Sacrament and said, “Lord, please answer two things. Do you want me to do this? And if you do, please bring people into my life who can help.”
Today he is in negotiations to buy a radio station for the Veritas Catholic Network and hopes to begin broadcasting throughout Fairfield County by autumn—with the encouragement of Bishop Frank Caggiano, who recently told a group of prospective benefactors, “I raise my voice in tremendous support of this effort, which is a new frontier for us in our Diocese.” The Bishop is on the board of Veritas.
Lee, who will serve as president & CEO, hopes to raise $500,000 for his initiative, which will broadcast EWTN programming 24 hours a day, seven days a week in addition to providing local coverage of Catholic and community events.
“There is a great market here, with 400,000 Catholics,” he said. “Our Diocese benefits from an outstanding bishop and strong priests, but like Catholics everywhere, there is a need for a new evangelization that spreads the authentic faith. We hope to extend the Sunday experience out to all seven days so that Catholics in the Diocese can become more involved and more educated.”
There are currently 400 EWTN affiliates in the United States, and Veritas will be the 401st. After operations begin in Fairfield County, Lee is optimistic the network will be able to expand to Westchester County and New York City and then to the entire state of Connecticut.
During a recent presentation in Stamford, Lee was joined by Christopher Check, president of Catholic Answers, the largest lay-run apologetics and evangelization organization in the English-speaking world and producer of the leading national radio show Catholic Answers Live, along with John Mitchell of Ridgefield, chairman of the Veritas board and partner in the Radius Media Group. Both talked about the ability of Catholic radio to spread the faith.
Mitchell said, “We’re looking to engage, educate and build community. We want to bring people back to the faith and eventually our long-term goal is to expand Veritas into social media, digital and print.”
The mission of Veritas Catholic Network, he said, is to share the truth of the Gospel and fullness of the Catholic faith by broadcasting faithful and entertaining programs on multiple media platforms including radio, mobile, social networking, and through community engagement.
They shared research that suggested 93 percent of Americans 12 years of age and older listen to terrestrial radio every week and that 82 percent of media consumers 18 and older prefer AM/FM radio.
A survey of 1100 EWTN listeners showed that 56 percent said Catholic radio helped them teach their children, 58 percent increased the amount of time they give to others, and 51 percent became more involved in their parishes. In addition, 127 said it helped save their marriages, 78 converted to Catholicism and 129 considered a vocation to the priesthood or religious life.
“Catholic radio has had remarkable effects on society, particularly in Catholic communities,” Lee said. “There are conversions to the Church, a deeper understanding of Catholic teaching among the faithful, a strengthening of Catholic families, support for Catholic schools and parishes, as well as for Catholic business owners who provide underwriting for these stations.”
In the typical model, he said, most networks derive 75 percent of their budgets from listener support and 25 percent from business underwriting.
“In 1996, Mother Angelica first offered to provide Catholic programming to any Catholic who owned or operated a radio station,” Lee said. “EWTN Radio affiliates quickly began popping up around the country. Michigan, Nevada and Florida were among the first areas to broadcast 24 hours a day of faithful Catholic programming.”
Veritas will have a local presence in communities at events like parish festivals, fairs, sporting events and Catholic schools, along with conferences at Catholic colleges and universities.
“It’s amazing the number of non-Catholics and even atheists who listen to Catholic radio and call in to ask questions,” Lee said. “The climate in our country and the conversation in society is increasingly angry on both sides of the spectrum, and our aim is to bring the joy of Christ to others with God’s grace.”
“The Lord can touch people in profound ways while they are sitting on the Merritt,” Bishop Caggiano said.
For more information, visit www.veritascatholic.com
Pictured above: Steve Lee, President & CEO of Veritas Catholic Network; Bishop Frank Caggiano, board member; John Mitchell, chairman; and Christopher Check, president of Catholic Answers, attend presentation about bringing the EWTN affiliate to the Diocese of Bridgeport.