RIDGEFIELD—Since he began Veritas Catholic Network three years ago, Steve Lee has prayed to EWTN’s founder, Mother Angelica, for guidance, and also to St. Maximilian Kolbe, the Franciscan friar martyred by the Nazis, who was an early champion of mass media to spread the faith.
The network, which is an affiliate of EWTN and broadcasts at 1350 AM and 103.9 FM, recently received a first-class relic of St. Kolbe, the Polish priest who was killed by a lethal injection at Auschwitz. St. Pope John Paul II called him the “patron saint of our difficult century,” and he is venerated as patron of radio operators and journalists.
St. Kolbe believed in the power of the media to deliver the Gospel message, Lee said. The saint, who published a magazine and built the first Catholic radio station in Poland, told his friars, “Remember, the purpose of every effort is to disseminate the faith by the written word, the spoken word, and perhaps someday through producing films.”
That’s a mission Lee, president & CEO, has embraced since founding Veritas, which broadcasts Catholic programming 24 hours a day throughout Fairfield County, parts of Long Island and New York.
His spiritual director, Msgr. Kevin Royal, was the one who suggested that Lee begin a devotion to St. Kolbe.
“He was a big-time media guy with a million readers a month, and his radio station was broadcasting the truth, battling Nazi propaganda,” Lee said. “He was like Mother Angelica 50 years before her time.”
The more Lee learned, the more he prayed. Then, he petitioned St. Kolbe’s monastery in Poland for a first-class relic. With the help of Father Samuel Kachuba, the chaplain of Veritas, they drafted an official request, which was granted.
Lee and his wife Roula went to Holy Cross Parish in New Britain to receive the relic.
Perhaps it was the intercession of St. Kolbe, when four days later, the station’s application for an FM translator was approved after six months of waiting, allowing the network to also broadcast on 103.9 FM.
Lee says his goal is to move the network into the rest of Connecticut, Long Island, possibly Rhode Island and deeper into New York.
During 2022, Veritas is looking to launch two to three new shows to complement its five local programs. He also hopes to hold a Catholic conference and sponsor a pilgrimage.
“This is the year we hope to get out into the community to cover parish and school activities in addition to secular festivals and events,” he said. “Our goal is to offer the peace Jesus can offer through the teachings of the Church.”
Lee said he is very pleased with the listener response to Veritas’ programs, particularly “Let Me Be Frank,” hosted by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, who recently interviewed theologian Scott Hahn.
“They are like desserts when he interviews people,” he said. “The real attraction is the bishop himself, when he goes in depth and, for example, talks about the Eucharistic document the U.S. bishops put out or how to prepare for Advent or growing up in Brooklyn or when he lived in Rome.”
New local programming includes “The Frontline with Joe & Joe,” “Restless,” a talk show with Liv Harrison, who is a Catholic media personality and comedian, and “Focus on Veritas.”
“Focus on Veritas,” a half-hour weekly show brings committed Catholics on the air to talk about their work.
“There is so much bad news out there that we wanted to focus on some of the good things that people are doing,” Lee said.
“Restless” explores topics pertinent to young adults, such as how to evangelize in the workplace and how to navigate the single life with an eye toward marriage. Father Joseph A. Gill, pastor of St. Jude Parish in Monroe, is joined by Lauren Doyle, Diane Kremheller and Javier Tremaria.
“‘Restless’ is a great show, and I love listening to them,” Lee said. “I smile, I laugh, I nod my head. They are doing a great job, and their audience is growing.”
Liv Harrison, a Catholic comedian and mother of two children, hosts a nightly talk show from 8 to 9 pm once a week.
“She does a monologue and interviews guests and talks about what’s happening in the world,” Lee said. “It has the feel of a late-night talk show. I love her energy. She has a great personality.”
“The Frontline with Joe & Joe” features Joe Pacillo and Joe Reciniello. It is described as “a fearless culture commentary from America’s kitchen table.”
Both men are devout Catholics who have been active in the pro-life movement and have helped others through their work with the Sisters of Life, the Missionaries of Charity and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. They live in Northern New Jersey and had careers on Wall Street for many years. The duo has interviewed Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, Ralph Martin of Renewal Ministries and theologian Scott Hahn.
“These are everyday guys who are smart and faithful,” Lee says. “And they ask questions from the perspective of the ordinary person.”
Lee says the listener response he has received has reaffirmed his commitment to the mission of Veritas.
“Do you know why we’re doing this?” Lee asked. “We’re doing it for the man who sent me an email and said, ‘Since I began listening to Veritas, I started to learn the reasons behind Catholic teaching and devotions…and my faith has gotten so much deeper.’”
A woman told him that she was in the car with her middle-school son when they got into a conversation about something they heard on Veritas, and their discussion continued over dinner with the rest of the family.
“We’re also doing it for the family who had Veritas on their father’s radio as he lay in bed those final weeks before he passed away, when there was no one to keep him company,” Lee said. “We are doing this for everybody in our listening area and for their families. By listening you strengthen your faith and you strengthen your family…and your family strengthens the community.”
He also encourages people to listen through the Veritas app, which is available for Apple and Android devices and offers great reception, along with podcasts and live-streaming. The app has listeners all over the world, from South Africa to England, Canada, Florida and California. It is available at the Apple App Store and Google Play by searching for Veritas Catholic Network. Or you can visit www.veritascatholic.com/listen.
There are currently some 400 EWTN Radio affiliate stations in the United States. Lee says Veritas reaches an estimated audience of 900,000 people, including 400,000 Catholics in the Bridgeport Diocese.
EWTN programming includes “Catholic Answers Live,” “Called to Communion” with Dr. David Anders, “Kresta in the Afternoon,” “The Doctor Is In” with Dr. Ray Guarendi and “Women of Grace” with Johnette Williams. Veritas also simulcasts “The World Over” with Raymond Arroyo and classic programs featuring Mother Angelica and Father Benedict Groeschel.
Lee, who left his job in finance on Wall Street to start Veritas, credits his wife Roula with providing him the spiritual and moral support to undertake the venture. Residents of Ridgefield, they are parents of three children.