Saturday wasn't a day for first communion or confirmations. It was a day for blessing a radio station.
In full ceremonial garb, members of the Knights of Columbus solemnly followed Bishop John C. Wester of the Diocese of Salt Lake City as he sprinkled holy water on Utah's only Catholic radio station Saturday morning.
"The Catholic radio allows us to get the word out, especially to shut-ins and those homebound," Bishop Wester said. "This is an opportunity for many to hear the word of God."
The Immaculate Heart radio station, the first of its kind in Utah for more than 50 years, was switched on at 9:30 a.m., broadcasting at 50,000 watts the announcement of its own opening to the majority of northern Utah on KJHU 1010 AM.
Listeners will be privy to three rosary prayers, question-and-answer sessions about faith and call-in times to talk with a Catholic psychologist and marriage counselor. The station will also broadcast a bishop's hour in which Bishop Wester or members of his counsel will discuss current events in the Catholic Church, moral issues and other topics.
"We could discuss assisted suicide, morality or even embryonic stem cell research," Bishop Wester said. "Some of our issues are not clear to people about that research. We're not against the proper use of certain cells if it doesn't take human life."
And according to Immaculate Heart radio founder and president Doug Sherman, the station could also help Catholics learn about and understand their faith more deeply, which he said is needed in today's culture.
"Something's happened in the last 40 years. More and more don't understand their faith as well," said Sherman, who has started 12 Catholic radio stations throughout the Western states. "Something in our whole culture has made it more difficult to experience faith as deeply."
The question-and-answer call-in sessions about faith and other religious topics will open the floor to learning outside of Sunday Mass and help people who can't make it to church receive some religious element, Bishop Wester said.
"It's not going to take the place of Mass, but it connects people to the wider church," Wester said.
Mancuso Catholic Bookstore in Salt Lake City and other organizations are sponsoring the nonprofit station, which costs $150,000 to run annually. Immaculate Heart is opening another station in Phoenix, Ariz., in two months.
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