by Joe Bollig
WAMEGO — There’s something stirring in the air out on the western side of the archdiocese, and it isn’t a thunderstorm.
A new Catholic radio station is on its way — KSWZ-LP 105.3.
Don’t bother tuning in just yet. This low-power radio station won’t be on the air until Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann hits the big red “on” button on July 19 at St. Bernard Parish in Wamego.
The signal will come from a tower at St. George, which is about seven miles east of Manhattan on Kansas Highway 24. The studio is located in a Topeka residence.
The station will be operated by a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation — The Sword of St. George, Inc. — under the oversight of St. Bernard Parish, which owns the broadcasting license.
Being low power, the station’s over-the-air signal will only cover an area roughly from the western border of the archdiocese east to Wamego, and from Flush in the north and south to Interstate 70.
Because the signal will also be simulcast over the Internet, the station’s operators hope they can build an audience throughout the archdiocese west of Topeka.
The station was begun by a handful of people, including Topeka radio veteran Leo Defendorf, a member of St. Matthew Parish in Topeka, and Kent Hampton, a research assistant in the entomology department at Kansas State University and member of the St. Isidore Catholic Campus Center in Manhattan.
Defendorf has a 45-year career in commercial radio and was program director of KTPK. He went by the on-air name of Lee O’Day. He left commercial radio three years ago. He’s on the board of directors and is program director — essentially running the new station.
“We feel Catholic radio is very important,” said Defendorf. “The western part of the archdiocese is not being served. In Kansas City, there’s KEXS [and translator stations], but from Topeka west, there is no Catholic radio.”
Hamilton, who has no background in radio, has 20 years of experience as a computer technician.
The impetus to start up a radio station had two catalysts.
The first was a friend who was inspired to tell Hamilton that he would lead an important ministry, although he didn’t suggest what it might be. The second was from a monthly prayer group.
“I was told at one of those prayer meetings that I needed to look into starting a Catholic radio station,” said Hamilton. “That was in 2013, right before the Federal Communications Commission opened the applications window for construction permits for low-power radio stations.”
Hamilton asked Defendorf for help and they eventually formed a corporation. They were also helped by the archdiocese, St. Bernard Parish, EWTN Radio and the Catholic Radio Association.
The corporation has a shared services agreement with St. Bernard Parish.
“The terms of the agreement are we raise the money, build the station and operate the station,” said Hamilton. “The parish maintains ultimate oversight over programming, staffing and finances of the radio station.”
Efforts to start a station also got significant help from Jerry Hutchinson, chief operating officer of Angel 95, KHCA 95.3 FM, a Christian radio station in Manhattan.
“He was one of the first persons I contacted,” said Hamilton. “He said he thought it was a great idea to start a Catholic radio station and would do anything he could to help us. He let us rent space on his tower and house our equipment at a very low price.”
About 90 percent of the station’s programming will come from EWTN Radio. The station will also run archdiocesan programing, including Archbishop Naumann’s show “The Shepherd’s Voice,” public service announcements, news, weather, parish news and devotional programming.
Currently, the corporation is conducting fundraising to pay for equipment and the first two years of station operations.
For information about how to help KSWZ-LP, go to its Facebook page: The Sword KSWZ-LP.
The station’s website should be functional in about a week and can be accessed at: KSWZ-LP.com.