By Matthew Biddle
The only Catholic radio program broadcast in WA is in desperate need of funds as it struggles to remain on the airwaves.
The Gate of Heaven program requires $5000 each financial year to stay on the air – a target which is looking increasingly hard to reach.
With just three months remaining until the June 30 deadline, only $2000 has been raised.
Produced by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, the show is broadcast on Radio Fremantle 107.9FM every Sunday at 7.30pm until 9pm.
Program host Father John Joseph said it’s the first time the show had faced such a grave crisis.
“We’re coming to that point now – so we’ve been telling the people that we really need their support,” he said.
“It manages to survive by Divine Providence. We did have a major benefactor for most of the time that I’ve been here, but that major benefactor has since passed away.
“As long as we can afford to keep doing it, we’ll keep doing it.” Unlike most other programs on the station, Gate of Heaven receives no external funding, forcing the Friars to beg for donations to keep the show going.
“We’re paying the full rate, they may be paying half or less,” Fr John Joseph said.
“Some of them open themselves up to commercial support … whereas we don’t, we’re not commercial, we just beg.”
The program has survived for more than five years on the back of donations from generous listeners and the help of several volunteers who assist the Friars.
Two such volunteers are Paul and Michele Carter, who assist in the show’s production.
Both are third-order Franciscans, who take on a religious name but continue to live as lay people in the world following the Franciscan way of life and observing a Marian vow of unlimited consecration to the Immaculate.
Mrs Carter (Sister Therese) presents most of the announcements on the show, while Mr Carter (Brother Joseph) works the control board with Friar Cyprian.
Sr Therese and Br Joseph have been involved in the program since it started in early 2003, when it replaced Raymond de Souza’s show, The Layman’s Hour, on Radio Fremantle.
The first program broadcast was a humorous occasion which became etched in the memory of all involved.
“There was a lady who was trying to help out because it was the first show and they were not familiar with the radio controls and buttons,” Fr John Joseph explained.
“She knew what she was doing but she made a few mistakes … so what happened was the instructions as they were being given were actually live on air because the lady had forgotten to turn off the microphone. “One of the friars wanted to call the radio program and say ‘What are you doing?’”
The Gate of Heaven program usually consists of a one-hour broadcast of material from the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), followed by a half-hour live segment in which Fr John Joseph discusses specific topics. “Some of our material is also from the Fulton J. Sheen Society … and we have some of our own material that we’ve got from our radio program in the States,” Fr John Joseph said.
“If we didn’t have access to the EWTN stuff, we wouldn’t have enough material … that’s one of the great graces of EWTN – it’s made Catholic radio and television possible around the world.” Fr John Joseph said one of the charisms of the Friars is to make use of all possible means that are legitimate to assist their mission of promoting Our Lady.
“It’s following a charism of St Maximillian Kolbe – to make use of all the modern media – so we use not only the printed words, but also radio and television if possible, if we can afford it.
“Promoting Our Lady, knowledge of Our Lady and devotion to Our Lady by all legitimate means is our number one focus in all our work and thus something which we all put a lot of time and effort into.”
Sr Therese said she had been receiving an increasing amount of positive feedback from listeners about the show.
“Because I’m on the book stall for the Day with Mary, I notice that more people now come and speak about the Gate of Heaven,” she said.
“There’s more comments, more positive feedback, which would indicate that our listening audience is starting to widen.”
Fr John Joseph said he thoroughly enjoyed sharing the faith with others over the airwaves but was concerned with the current crisis.
“I just find it a curious thing when I hear that Catholics are giving large sums of money to non-Catholic stations when they could be supporting a Catholic program,” he said.
“Pope John Paul II said Catholics must get involved in the modern Catholic media – we need Catholic radio stations and we need Catholic television stations so we can get out there and be heard.”
Despite the fact there are many worthy charities people can donate to, Fr John Joseph said Catholics should support their media too.
“The number of people who can be reached by the Catholic media should certainly be considered in what we want to support,” he said.
If the show can somehow manage to raise the urgently required funds, Fr John Joseph said he had great plans for the program’s future.
“I would hope to be able to catholicise Perth more and more, to help it to deepen and grow in its faith, that’s certainly one of my goals,” he said.
“But we also need growth in knowledge, that’s the solid doctrine on which our faith is built and by which we grow.”
Sr Therese encouraged all people to support the program and especially Catholics to get behind the sole Catholic radio show in WA.
“We’re on the web, so if they can’t tune in by radio and they have a computer they can tune in there (radiofremantle.com),” she said.
“We want to evangelise every soul in Australia and the world.”
If you would like to help keep the Gate of Heaven program on air, donations can be sent to: Gate of Heaven, PO Box 1089, Bibra Lake, WA, 6965.