Dcn. Clarence Campbell, who serves the five-parish Catholic Communities of Ashland Cluster, points to Our Lady of the Lake’s bell tower, now home to the radio transmitter for the only Catholic radio station transmitting from within the Diocese of Superior. Campbell, a member of the Catholic clergy and local radio personality, has been very involved with the Holy Family Radio Association since its inception. (Submitted photo)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

WWMD – What would Mary do?

The letters comprise the station identification for the only Catholic radio station transmitting within the Diocese of Superior. What they stand for is the inspiration behind the Holy Family Radio Association, evangelizing the Chequamegon Bay area since 2007.

In early March, the transmitting equipment was moved to Our Lady of the Lake Church in Ashland, with the antenna now located inside the bell tower.

Taking a decade to complete, construction of the bell tower at the church began in 1887. Just before the turn of the last century, the large bells started ringing out to announce the start of Mass as well as the hours of the day, and they have been tolling those times for more than 100 years.

Historically, bells were also rung as the call to worship, the signal that the church’s service was about to begin.

More than the hour is being marked since the radio transmitter was moved to the bell tower. With a new frequency at 95.3 FM, a slight dial turn from the previous 95.5, Relevant Radio’s around-the-clock programming is available with a much stronger signal covering the Bay area.

Under the suspension of public Masses, Sunday mornings have seen the addition of a radio broadcast of the Mass, “and lots of our parishioners really appreciate it.” Ric Johnson said.

Johnson is the business administrator for the cluster.

He added that in “changing times,” the younger generation “prefers the Facebook transmission” with the added feature of video. Even so, the station’s signal – and mission – has been amplified.

It was changing times – seeing a need for adult catechesis in a time when Catholics were becoming “lukewarm or leaving the church altogether” – that was behind the establishment of the station as reported in an October 2014 article in the Catholic Herald.

Johnson added that WWMD has dreamed of being able to reach a larger listener base.

Almost as a precursor to the bell tower’s prominent new role for Holy Family Radio, new attention was had already been drawn to the structure when a timer-run LED lighting system was installed last fall to light up the spire’s stained glass windows facing Highway 2.

The windows, donated many years ago by the Catholic Knights, have been dark for almost as many years.

The parish administrator noted funds donated by the parish’s funeral lunch ladies and offer of time and expertise of Wire Right Electric (ran by parishioners Jeff Kupczyk and son Dan Kupczyk) were invaluable resources.

“A wonderful gift of stewardship – time, talent and treasure!” Johnson said.

He called special attention to another member of Our Lady of the Lake, Dcn. Clarence Campbell, who has shared countless hours of his own time and talent with the radio station.

Dcn. Campbell has been a staple member of the station’s board of directors for many years. He is a local radio personality broadcasting for high school sports and, according to Johnson, “has wonderful connections and expertise for radio equipment, engineering and licensure issues.”

Johnson called him “a major driving force behind the success of our little, local gem of a Catholic radio station.”

“Prior to the recent moving … the transmission shed was east of town – way out in the woods,” Johnson said.
It was the deacon who would receive frequent calls to troubleshoot problems that took that station off the air – from brushing snow off the satellite dish to removing hornets’ nests infesting the site.

With the antenna located in the bell tower, the use of the parish’s high speed internet connection is available for connecting to Relevant Radio in Green Bay. This also allows Campbell – “the current voice of WWMD radio” – to record and save his regular messages with greater ease.

One of the more challenging issues was working with the Federal Communications Commission and professional radio engineers to prevent overlapping of nearby stations’ stronger signals, determining the exact frequency for WWMD. The transmitter move has given the station an unimpeded signal transmission to a five-mile radius in the Ashland area.

“It would be a dream, and is a hope, for the future” that WWMD’s broadcast area would be even larger, Johnson said.

“All it takes is funding,” he stated.

A scheduled fundraiser in March was cancelled as coronavirus safety measures were put into place. Funds raised were to be designated to complete the upgrade and in anticipation of expenses in the coming months.

Donations are welcome. Checks can be made out to Holy Family Radio and mailed to the parish office at Our Lady of the Lake, 201 Lake Shore Drive E, Ashland, WI 54806.

Added: June 8, 2020

Catholic radio clarifications

A note from reporter Jenny Snarski:

After publication of the May 28 article that included coverage of Ashland’s 95.3 WWMD, it was brought to our attention that it is not the only Catholic radio station broadcasting from within the geographic boundaries of the Diocese of Superior.

Within the last five years, two other stations have been established.

There is 88.1 WWEN, which is one of the stations in the Real Presence radio network based out of Fargo, North Dakota. Airing in the Duluth and Superior area, the station’s transmitter is licensed in Wentworth, WI. Real Presence Radio is affiliated with EWTN and airs their programming with a few locally produced programs.

More information is available at yourcatholicradiostation.com and on Facebook at “Real Presence Radio Network.”

Another Relevant Radio affiliate – as is WWMD – is KSPP, broadcasting in the Woodruff, Tomahawk, Rhinelander and Eagle River region as Northwoods Catholic Radio.

Programming information is available at relevantradio.com.

Northwoods Catholic Radio has a website at northwoodscatholicradio.org and Facebook page called “Northwoods Catholic Radio” which has a signal strength map.

We apologize for the misinformation.

It was also requested that I note that Clarence Campbell, pictured with the May 28 article, has not been involved with Ashland WWMD since the beginning, rather for approximately the last eight years.