Listeners often stumbled upon us and, totally unaccustomed to Catholic radio, wondered what we were up to. Were we a cover for some political ideology or some weird religious cult? Fine minds wanted to know. One energetic “fine mind” even called to challenge us to a spiritual contest of power between Jesus and Zeus who, apparently, frequented his backyard in Chicago through a pyramid that he had built. We declined the invitation and took to just saying, “We’re not conservative; we’re not liberal; we’re not nuts–We’re just Catholic.”
Some thought that sounded a tad defensive so we started saying “We’re News and Talk for Catholic and other Christians.” Some of our separated brethren fraternally objected saying that it was clear that we considered all non-Catholics second class Christians.
When we explained that wasn’t quite right since many non-Catholics use the spiritual cards they’ve been dealt far better than many Catholics who had been given the whole deck. But that made it sound like we thought non-Catholics were playing with only half a deck and that sounded belittling. This ecumenism stuff could get subtle. Positioning ourselves on the spectrum of opinion, as well as, the electronic spectrum, was trickier than we had thought. But the response was gratifying. You can’t have “arguments” like that, if nobody cares. And it was clear: people cared.
The most common response was to the effect of “I’ve been a Catholic for 25 years and I didn’t know that’s what the Church taught.” The need for Remedial Catechesis was so great and this, of course, is what Mother Angelica had been championing for 25 years. Remedial catechesis was our immediate and central mission. Over the next few years, the studios would be revised to keep up with shifting needs and that meant we needed a lot of help from our friends and co-workers, in particular Steve Clarke, Henry Root, and later Terry Coles.
For strategic reasons, Ave Maria radio developed slowly over the next few years. While the Ave Maria Foundation was our primary source of funding, we knew that wouldn’t be forever. We needed to figure out a funding model that would allow us to do the two things to which we had been called:
1. To operate the stations locally in SE Michigan, and,
2. To create the kind of compelling Catholic radio programming that could serve nationally.
EWTN’s focus was television so we thought we had something distinctive to contribute on the radio front. We felt quite certain that the Lord had brought us together to accomplish these two objectives but for the first few years Credo, the newspaper which was sent free to 35+ households, primarily in southeast Michigan, was the first priority. Oftentimes key radio interviews were transcribed and published in Credo. We were also exploring new cooperative arrangements with other Catholic groups, locally and nationally, who were enthusiastic about radio but who also needed to solve the funding problem.