Ave Maria Radio…The Story
Without Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza, Ave Maria Radio would never have been born. Without you, it would never have grown. Without the Holy Spirit, it would not have mattered.
Twenty five years ago, Domino’s Pizza founder and former owner of the Detroit Tigers, Tom Monaghan established Legatus, an apostolate to encourage Catholic business leaders to apply their faith in all their business dealings and to apply their business skills to the missionary mandate of the Church. Tom wanted to model what a “Legate” was supposed to be. He had five areas of priority. One required that he use his talent and resources to extend the work of the Church in media. Ave Maria Radio was the beneficiary of Tom’s faithfulness as a Legate.
Here’s the rest of the story. In 1996 Mother Angelica, foundress of EWTN, now the world’s largest religious broadcasting enterprise, promised to provide Catholic programming for any Catholic who would lease, purchase or could otherwise control radio stations. In the fall of 1996, Monaghan leased 1290 AM in Ann Arbor and his colleague Frank Czajka named it WDEO, Deo, being Latin for God. WDEO became the first Catholic station in America to air EWTN programming full time. It’s easy to be the first when no one else is doing it. Catholic stations in Reno Nevada, Jacksonville Beach Florida and St. Louis Missouri were just getting off the ground around the same time. A fine Catholic station in Portland, Oregon had been broadcasting for years but was primarily a music station.
Now, fifteen years after people began responding to Mother Angelica’s challenge, Catholic Radio can be heard on over 220 terrestrial stations throughout the United States. It’s even more impressive when you consider the Catholic presence on satellite radio, internet streaming audio, and over smart phones and other devices that now have special apps to allow you to listen to Catholic radio all over the world. Remarkable! What hath God wrought?
In January of 1997, Tom recruited Al Kresta to pull the free Catholic newspaper, Credo and the radio station, WDEO into a symbiotic relationship covering the southeast corner of the Lansing diocese and the western flank of the Detroit Archdiocese. The timing couldn’t have been better. Fr. Pat Egan, currently our chaplain, was Domino’s Pizza Priest. He had always performed the vital but invisible task of connecting talent with need behind the scenes. We suspect he made some critical phone calls.
Two months before, the Krestas had decided to leave Detroit in order to become members at Christ the King parish in Ann Arbor. By the end of February, 1997, they were moved in and planning for the first of the WDEO studios was underway. In August, the studio was finished and the first originally produced Ave Maria Radio program, Al Kresta in the Morning, was on the air and also broadcast on the short-lived Catholic Family Radio network.