St. Mary hosts church historian Paul Thigpen for parish mission

GREENVILLE — Leading professionals and other Catholic heavyweights of the Upstate gathered in Gallivan Hall on the campus of St. Mary Church Sept. 22 to kick off the fund-raiser for Catholic radio in the area. Bishop Robert J. Baker was on hand to bless the undertaking.

“The theme I hear from listeners of Catholic radio is gratitude,” said Paul Thigpen. “This magnificent mission is uniquely positioned to change lives.” He is a church history scholar, author of 32 books on the faith, editor of The Catholic Answer and director of a new Catholic reading room in Savannah.

Thigpen was the featured speaker at a dinner of Spanakopeta, carved leg of beef and fruit tarts. He was invited to speak by Gary Towery, a member of the board of Mediatrix, the company that now owns two Catholic radio stations in South Carolina, and the sparkplug for buying WCKI in Greenville. He said that the all-volunteer company plans eventually to “cover the state with Catholic radio.”

When Bishop Baker rose to speak, he was greeted with a standing ovation from the hundred or so invitees. While making it clear that getting Catholic radio established in South Carolina would not be a diocesan effort, he also said that it was essential for sharing the faith, and he would support it. In order for any operation in the state to call itself Catholic, approval by the diocesan ordinary is required.

“Catholic radio started as a lay effort, and we want it to stay that way. The Catholic part I will watch. It will be blessed by me and my brother priests,” Bishop Baker said. “Proper apologetics are necessary today. Pope John Paul’s statement (on Catholic radio) should be our model to share, proudly and unabashedly.”

Sharing the doctrines that Catholics believe is a primary reason Catholic radio is important, according to Thigpen (please see his seven reasons in the accompanying sidebar). He said that lapsed Catholics and non-Catholics could learn about the faith without making a public issue out of their desire to learn.

“It’s private. It allows the faith into private homes and cars without fear of public rejection here in the Bible Belt. It’s timely, immediate and always available,” said the author of “The Passion: 40 reflections on the suffering of Jesus.”

Bishop Baker praised the programming plans of Brian Pusateri and Joseph Galloway, who will produce a faith-based show on stewardship called “It’s Not Your Money,” and Chuck Hussion, the sportscaster for Furman University football, who plans to broadcast Mass from area churches.

The bishop said that the diocese is planning to install a TV and radio recording studio in the chancery carriage house on Broad Street in Charleston.

Attendees at the fund-raising dinner were enthusiastic about the idea of Catholic radio. Trudy Hock said: “How else are we going to get the word out?”

WCKI, 1300AM, offers programming from EWTN, as well as talks from Bishop Baker and other locally generated programs.