Saturday, July 12, 2008

Catholic radio station set to launch in St. Cloud

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St. Cloud radio man started KYES in response to pope’s urging

Andy Hilger doesn’t know the word retirement.

The 78-year-old St. Cloud radio man still has the work ethic and energy to guide him toward his new quest — that of a spiritual kind, rather than monetary.

“I looked in the Bible, there is nothing about retirement,” Hilger said.

The last two and a half years, Hilger has worked with fellow Catholics to launch KYES, a Catholic talk radio station, that would reach the entire Diocese of St. Cloud.

As the first station of its kind in the St. Cloud area, community members said KYES won’t be geared just toward Catholics, but instead toward the whole Christian community. Hilger said he wants it to reflect positive community news and values, rather than push an agenda.

“We are not political, conservative or liberal — our programs reflect the teachings of the Catholic Church,” he said. “We want to bury negativity.”

The Throw Fire Project

KYES is part of a larger nonprofit organization that Hilger is heading called The Throw Fire Project.

The project also hopes to implement a Catholic studies institute near St. Cloud State University. Hilger hopes to rent space in the Newman Center and tap into the student population.

Hilger has a group of almost a dozen board members who will oversee the implementation of The Throw Fire Project. Some members have backgrounds in radio, sales and marketing and will use their talents to build Throw Fire, Hilger said.

Hilger said he was inspired to start Throw Fire after Pope John Paul II called on Catholics to start up Catholic radio stations as part of a new era of evangelism. In response, about 200 such stations were started by Catholic lay people across the country.

“Not everything related has to be done by the institute or church,” said Bernard Evans, a faculty member at the School of Theology at St. John’s University. “Catholic social teachings over the years have called on lay people to take that kind of leadership,” Evans said.

Starting KYES and the institute will cost about $4.7 million, with $1 million already pledged from community members. Ongoing costs will be covered by sponsorships and donations.

Carol Tembreull, a member of the Catholic community and a volunteer with various organizations, said she hopes KYES will educate people about programs that exist in the community and allow them to tell their stories. She said that too often, people are bombarded by negative news.

“I think there is a lot of people who are like me and would appreciate some positive influence,” Tembreull said.

Catholic studies

The Catholic studies institute will offer seminars, lecture series and youth programs centered around the Catholic faith.

Hilger has been working with the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas to set up the institute. The center has set up similar programs at private and public institutions nationwide.

“Religion needs an intellectual form as well as a faith expression,” said Don Briel, director of the Center for Catholic Studies. “It’s an important time to create forums for those discussions.”

Hilger said that although KYES’ format is classified as Catholic talk radio, the mission is to inspire, support and celebrate all Christian values in Central Minnesota.

Joe Gibbons, executive director of the Central Minnesota Re-Entry Project, said the radio station will let listeners know what the community needs are. The Re-Entry Project helps ex-inmates rejoin society after serving their jail or prison sentences.

“It’s not going to just appeal to Catholics, it’s going to appeal to all Christians,” Gibbons said. “It’s a market that we are not reaching now. There is a lot of people who just don’t want to listen to rock or country or talk radio, but listen to Christian information.”

Connecting faith

Hilger has been in the radio business for decades, starting as a night disc jockey at WJON in 1958. He moved on to become station manager and then owner of WJON, eventually adding three other stations to his portfolio.

In 2000, Hilger sold three of the stations to Regent Communications, and donated Spirit 92.9 to the Diocese of St. Cloud. The diocese runs Spirit as a contemporary Christian music station.

KYES will have programming similar to Relevant Radio, a Wisconsin-based Catholic talk radio company that has a station in the Twin Cities. The programs will be syndicated Catholic programming mixed with local programs, Hilger said.

Hilger said he most likely won’t be hosting his own show.

“We have all kinds of radio stations here from talk radio to hip-hop ... ,” Hilger said. “It has been a dream of mine for a number of years.”

The Diocese of St. Cloud is not affiliated with the project, but Hilger said he has spoken with diocese officials about the station and will not broadcast any type of program that doesn’t align itself with Catholic beliefs and values.

The diocese said it doesn’t see KYES as competition to Spirit 92.9 because it’s attracting a different demographic, said director of communications Rebecca Kurowski.

“It’s Andy,” Kurowski said. “He has credibility. He’ll do great with it. There’s no concern at all.”

Possible KYES programming includes newscasts from Vatican Radio and Catholic Answers Live with Jerry Usher, a call-in discussion and debate of faith.

“Anything that would help us make connections between the faith that we claim to have and our daily lives would be a very good thing,” Evans said. “He (Hilger) has done good work in the area and that speaks highly to me.” St. Cloud Times

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