Expanding Catholic media ministry hosts popular shows such as 'The Patrick Madrid Show' and 'Family Rosary Across America'
DETROIT — One of America’s fastest-growing Catholic media enterprises has a new home on several Detroit-area radio stations.
Motor City Catholics stuck in rush hour traffic can now tune in to Illinois-based Relevant Radio, which earlier this year purchased an AM and four associated FM radio frequencies from Family Life Radio.
The $3.1 million deal, announced in December 2022 and finalized in February, sees Relevant Radio — home to popular programming such as “The Patrick Madrid Show” and “Family Rosary Across America” — take over WUFL-AM 1030, based in Sterling Heights, as well as 94.1 FM in Holly, 94.3 FM in Detroit, 103.1 FM in Rochester, and 104.7 FM in Detroit.
Fr. Francis “Rocky” Hoffman, chairman and CEO of Relevant Radio and host of “Family Rosary Across America,” told Detroit Catholic the radio ministry has been trying to break into the Detroit market for years.
“We like to say we’re using mass media to move the masses to the Mass,” Fr. Hoffman quipped. “We like traffic jams and big cities, and Detroit is a big motor city. In the past year and a half, we've gotten into a couple of big markets, and Detroit was the biggest market we were not in.”
Relevant Radio has more than 200 stations across the country, and the ministry’s goal is to have a presence in all top 100 markets in the United States by 2025, Fr. Hoffman said.
Relevant Radio’s foray into the Detroit market joins Ave Maria Radio, an affiliate of EWTN that operates several southeast Michigan stations, including its flagship WDEO-AM 990 in Ann Arbor, as well as 107.9 FM in Ann Arbor, 105.5 FM in Farmington Hills, 105.9 FM in Bay City, and 1440 AM in Saginaw.
While Ave Maria Radio features programming from local hosts such as Al Kresta (“Kresta in the Afternoon”), Teresa Tomeo (“Catholic Connection”) and Fr. John Riccardo (“Christ is the Answer”), Relevant Radio’s lineup does not currently include local programming — although Detroiters are certainly encouraged to call in to any of the station’s popular shows, Fr. Hoffman said.
“Our top shows are ‘The Patrick Madrid Show’ in the morning (with Catholic apologist and speaker Patrick Madrid) — three hours to learn something — ‘The Drew Mariani Show’ with the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m.; and the ‘Family Rosary Across America,’ which we not only broadcast through our AM and FM stations, but we stream it through our website, app and on video,” Fr. Hoffman said.
Relevant Radio is guided by three main principles, Fr. Hoffman said.
“The first one is, we’re faithful to the magisterium and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. That doesn’t mean you have to be Catholic to be on our station, but if you contradict something the Church teaches, we need to correct that,” Fr. Hoffman said.
“The second principle is unity with the local bishops. What that means in practice is, we don’t criticize bishops on air, or their people or their programs, or pre-empt their prerogatives,” Fr. Hoffman continued. “We’re not in the Catholics eating Catholics business.”
And the third principle is, “We’re under the protection of Our Lady, and there’s a lot of theology behind that,” Fr. Hoffman said.
The “Family Rosary Across America,” a live, call-in program in which families take turns asking for prayers in between decades of the rosary, is one of Relevant Radio’s most popular programs for a reason, Fr. Hoffman said. In addition to the radio program, families often send in pictures that are included in the program’s video production.
“Every night, we get about 100,000 people praying the rosary. They show up like clockwork,” Fr. Hoffman said. “About 40,000 are watching on big screens in their homes. That’s absolutely huge. As far as I know, nobody is doing anything like that.”
Callers offer live prayer intentions on the air, Fr. Hoffman said, anything from prayers for a 5-year-old’s birthday, to a father looking for work to provide for his family.
“We get the oldest demographic, a 101-year-old guy, to 5-year-old Tina who wants to pray for her brother Max who just lost his tooth,” Fr. Hoffman said. “We get lots and lots of people calling in, and the phones are jam packed every single night. We’re dedicated to it. I know it pleases Our Lord and pleases Our Lady, and it gives people a reference point in their day.”
Fr. Hoffman said Relevant Radio's primary mission is evangelization and catechesis, and he said the numbers back up the ministry's success.
"We do a listener survey every two years, and it's really consistent: 20% of our listeners claim something they heard on air moved them to come back to Mass," Fr. Hoffman said. "That's really, really good news. For every 100 people who listen, 20 come back to Mass, 43 come back to confession, and 84 pray more."
While Relevant Radio offers an app, multimedia and integration for tech-savvy listeners, Fr. Hoffman remains a big believer in AM and FM radio.
“It’s free and it’s easy, and it’s the No. 1 choice in the car,” Fr. Hoffman said. “If you’re bored in the car, you might grab your phone and use Bluetooth, but that can be dangerous, and sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Although some auto companies are considering dropping AM radio from new electric vehicles, Fr. Hoffman said he’s grateful to see Ford Motor Company reverse its decision and keep AM radio in its 2024 electric vehicle fleet — and not just for Relevant Radio’s sake.
“We’re very happy to see the CEO of Ford, Jim Farley, reverse the decision and keep AM radio in cars. It needs to be, because it’s the default emergency communications broadcast system for the federal government,” Fr. Hoffman said.
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