December 3, 2015
Relying on signals from above, Real Presence Radio is spreading the Catholic faith to God’s people in North and South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota, one station at a time.
Since its beginnings in 2000, the Grand Forks-based Catholic radio station has grown from renting air time on local stations and broadcasting for a few hours each day to 12 signals in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and into Montana and Canada.
“The main theme of all of our growth is allowing the Lord to lead us,” said Steve Splonskowski, Real Presence Radio executive director. He and the radio station’s five-member board of directors listen to the Lord for signals on where He wants them to expand, Splonskowski said.
“Being open to an opportunity and being prayerful about it, is what we’re doing,” said Steve Loegering, Real Presence Radio president and one of the station’s founders.
The first Real Presence studio was in the library closet of the St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center on the University of North Dakota campus. In 2007, at the invitation of St. Mary’s Church, Real Presence Radio moved its studio and office space to its location just south of downtown Grand Forks.
Two years later, Real Presence Radio began broadcasting in the Fargo-Moorhead area on AM 1280, its second station. With the recent addition of signals in Rapid City, South Dakota, and Bemidji, Minnesota, the number of Real Presence Radio stations has grown to 12.
The number of Real Presence Radio staff, meanwhile, also has grown over the years.
“When I started in 2007, I was the only staff member… Today we have five full-time staff and two part-time staff,” Splonskowski said. "We are blessed with a very talented and committed team." Real Presence Radio also has many volunteer workers who volunteer at events such as the station’s twice yearly “Live Drive” fundraiser.
The mission of Real Presence Radio is to assist the Roman Catholic Church in drawing people to the knowledge and love of Jesus and His Church through the medium of Catholic Radio, in full accordance with the magisterium, Splonskowski said.
Real Presence Radio, a lay apostolate that works with the Diocese of Fargo, Crookston, Bismarck and Rapid City is dedicated to answering the call of Saint Pope John Paul II for a New Evangelization. The station’s distinctively Catholic programing provides its listeners with a mix of devotionals, prayers, call-in programs, the daily Mass, and both local and national programs concerning the Catholic faith.
Real Presence Radio programming includes live broadcasts such as “Catholic Answers” “Morning Glory” and “Catholic Connection.” The station also broadcasts perennial favorites such as “Archbishop Fulton Sheen,” “Mother Angelica Live” and “Divine Mercy Chaplet.”
The feedback Real Presence Radio Board Chairman Ed Schmitz has heard from the station’s listeners has convinced him that it is doing important mission work. People have told him that listening to the radio station was the reason they decided to join the Catholic Church or that it has brought them back to the church, Schmitz said. Hearing those conversion stories gives him renewed strength on days he’s feeling exhausted.
“If I get tired, I get another testimonial that says, ‘Keep on,’ ” Schmitz said.
Local listeners in the areas where stations are added have paid for the addition of the stations to their areas, Splonskowski said. Real Presence Radio has been able to raise all of the money up front for some stations, and for others, loans were taken out until money was raised locally.
One of the biggest challenges Splonskowski and the board members face is finding a signal, at an affordable price that covers the area to which they feel they are being called.
“In all cases, we have just had to wait for the Lord to direct us to the right sellers. Sometimes that takes years, other times, He has done it within days or months,” Splonskowski said.
Sometimes, God has had a different plan for Real Presence Radio than the one the humans were devising, said Loegering.
“God has a different door for us to walk through,” he said. “He may close this door, but open another. If a door doesn’t open, God’s order is to wait.”
Besides finding affordable signals to purchase, another challenge facing Real Presence Radio is weather, Splonskowski said.
“Oftentimes when we are upgrading or building a station, we are held up by weather issues. Again, we wait for the Lord, and in His time, the project gets accomplished,” he said.
He and the Real Presence Radio board of directors have felt called, and been invited, to expand further into Minnesota, so they are preparing and searching for opportunities there, said Splonskowski.
And, as always, they are waiting for more signals from heaven above to determine where they should add another Real Presence signal on the earth below.
“We are also regularly discerning opportunities that come our way as the Lord presents them,” Splonskowski said.