By EMILY FREDRIX,
OMAHA, Dec. 17, 2005 (AP) - With the Holy Mother behind him and a picture of Pope John Paul II before him, John Lillis looks at his microphone and talks about how radio will revitalize the Roman Catholic Church.
Heeding the late pope's call to evangelize and spread the message of the church, Lillis and many other Catholic lay people are planning to start stations across the country. They're hoping that a so-called "window of opportunity" from the Federal Communications Commission makes their goal even easier. The window is the only time that nonprofit groups, including churches, universities and public safety groups, can apply for low-power FM stations.
"We want to have somebody listen safely and anonymously. The only way to do that is to help stations get off the ground," said Lillis, a longtime broadcaster from Omaha who consults with people wanting to start their own Catholic stations.
Religious radio is huge. Behind news talk and country, it was the third-most numerous format of radio stations in the country in 2004, according to the radio research firm Arbitron. There were 2,014 religious stations in the firm's last count, up from 1,089 in 1998.
But Catholic stations number about 120, the Catholic Radio Association reports.
"We're not an infant anymore but we're barely a toddler," said Stephen Gajdosik, president of the Charleston, S.C.-based trade group for Catholic radio.