Catholic Herald staff
The only Catholic radio station broadcasting from within the Diocese of Superior is now a Relevant Radio affiliate.
WWMD, 95.5 FM, has been on the air since 2007 and reaches the Ashland, Washburn and Bayfield areas, according to Deacon Clarence Campbell, who serves Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church, Ashland.
“They’d been carrying EWTN radio programming all this while, and they just switched over to Relevant Radio,” he added.
Ashland residents James and Joanne Gadamus initially funded start-up of the low-power station, which covers a 15-mile radius around Ashland. The process began more than a decade ago.
“My husband and I were contacted by a person who was with Relevant Radio at the time,” Joanne explained. “He asked us if he could use our names as local applicants for a Catholic radio station application he was submitting to the FCC.”
The couple was surprised when their application was accepted. They decided to go forward with the project.
“Basically, we felt like God had laid this opportunity in our lap and was looking to see if we’d take him up on the offer,” she continued. “We’ve been very blessed, and my husband said that if the station saved one soul, it was worth it. Our goal was to share the beauty of the church.”
WWMD started broadcasting in August 2007, just a few days before its permit expired.
“An amazing number of people volunteered to getting the station up and running, including the whole Christian community of Ashland, not just Catholics,” Joanne added.
The Gadamuses originally planned to broadcast Green Bay-based Relevant Radio, but there were hurdles, so they started out with EWTN programming. They also created a nonprofit organization to handle the station’s business.
Holy Family Educational Association Inc. manages WWMD. Led by president David Hart, a six-person board of directors is charged with, among other tasks, “making sure we have money to pay the bills,” Deacon Campbell said. “That’s the biggest thing every month, I think.”
Station volunteers are parishioners of the Bayfield cluster and Ashland parishes, the deacon explained. Although the parishes are supportive of the ministry, they do not provide funding for it; thus, board members hope to someday give on-air promotions to businesses that support WWMD programming.
“We don’t have a system in place where we can insert advertisements right now,” he said.
The board’s current aim is to upgrade their computer equipment so they can insert public radio-style promotions and, someday, local programming into the mix. Because of its nonprofit status, the station will not offer standard advertising of products and services.
Making the switch from EWTN to Relevant Radio took about a year of planning, Deacon Campbell commented. Part of the delay was in finding someone who could reorient the satellite dish to pick up the new signal; WWMD – the call letters stand for “What would Mary do?” – officially switched to Relevant Radio about a month ago.
Currently, running the station doesn’t require much hands-on labor, but the board hopes that will change. Airing local programming, including Masses, features on Our Lady of the Lake students and the like, is a goal. But, for now, “that’s all kind of pie in the sky,” he added.
In addition to working full-time at a radio station in the past, Deacon Campbell has also been broadcasting high school sports for decades.
Although board members have radio experience, he said they don’t currently have a way to produce programming.
Fr. Paul Paré, pastor of Our Lady of the Lake, has been supportive of the station, and there is talk of possibly setting up a studio at the church. The deacon hopes WWMD will become a tool for drawing non-practicing Catholics back into the fold.
“This is kind of an evangelization type thing, too,” he said. “That’s what we’re kind of hoping, anyway.”
Joanne said they’ve gotten a lot of good feedback about WWMD.
“Many people have thanked us for the station, as they have thanked the others who worked hard to get it on the air,” she added.