Amid the rolling landscape along Wisconsin State Highway 29 lies the small town of Boyd. This rural farming community is home to a little more than 680 residents. One of the more historic buildings in the town is St. Joseph Catholic Church, built in 1928. St. Joseph Catholic Church is used by All Saints Parish and is the result of the merger of three area parishes in 2013: Holy Family Parish in Stanley, St. Rose of Lima Parish in Cadott and St. Joseph Parish in Boyd. This new parish is under the care of Father William Felix and Deacon Ned Willkom. The interior of St. Joseph Church beautifully reflects the history of each of the three parishes. Below this beautiful house of Our Lord, unseen by the rest of the world, is an evangelization hub that reaches hundreds of souls every day. This is the home of WASB Spirit 96.5FM All Saints Catholic radio network. At first glance, the tiny room, about the size of a storage closet, seems to be of little significance. What could possibly be of importance in such a small space?
“WASB Spirit 96.5FM Catholic Radio Network is taking literally the words Jesus spoke to his disciples, ‘Go into the world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.’” – Mark 16:15
When entering the room, you are welcomed into a whole new world of blessed possibilities. Against one wall is a countertop that holds a laptop computer with cables that lead to the frequency mixer. A mobile cart next to the counter holds the transmitter and processor, which produces radio waves, generating the radio frequency to the antenna. A small transmitter tower and antenna run up the outside of the brick chimney at the back of the church, rising just a few feet above the structure. Looking from the outside, one would never imagine this church houses the possibility of spreading God’s story of salvation, praise and worship to hundreds of listeners all day, every day.
The inspiration for the Catholic radio station began with the encouragement of Deacon Willkom’s son, Matthew, a producer and co-host for Spirit Catholic Radio, an EWTN affiliate in Omaha, Neb. With the necessary approvals received, the application was made for a construction permit during an open application window provided by the Federal Communications Commission. That open window was blessed by God with the approval to construct a radio tower in Boyd.
A board of directors was formed, with a dedicated group of volunteers working on all phases of the project, one of which was to create a nonprofit entity that would ensure the ongoing life of the project. “Without their expertise, energy and generosity, this could not have happened,” says Deacon Willkom. “I owe them all a debt of gratitude. Countless hours of planning, hard work and personal investment were involved in the project.”
Construction of the studio and tower began early in 2015. On May 29, WASB Spirit 96.5FM radio was born and is now approaching its fifth anniversary. The station is on the air 24/7, 365 days a year, allowing listeners to encounter Jesus whether commuting to and from work, on the tractor or working in the fields or local businesses or in the privacy of their home.
The station’s signal covers a 10-mile radius. It encompasses the parish boundaries and beyond, with the added evangelization blessing of reaching the Stanley Correctional Institution, where approximately 1,500 inmates can receive its signal.
Working together with your parish family, there are amazing possibilities and potential for evangelization, to fulfill your vocation and be and do what God has created you to do.”
Unseen radio waves, with the power to reach a multitude of God’s children, enable listeners to encounter Jesus in their daily lives. WASB Spirit Radio provides Sunday Mass, daily programs focused on Scripture and Bible study, inspirational speakers, music, daily devotionals, the rosary, news and local weather reports.
“Each of us is created to be unique,” says Deacon Willkom. “God has gifted each of us with different talents. Never say you have nothing to offer. Be open to the promptings God gives you through the Holy Spirit. Working together with your parish family, there are amazing possibilities and potential for evangelization, to fulfill your vocation and be and do what God has created you to do. We will never know what Got has planned for us or the possibilities available to us if we don’t first answer the call.”
WASB Spirit 96.5FM Catholic Radio Network is making this world a better place one radio wave at a time. Perhaps the network and those affiliated with it could best be described as putting a visual approach to the words Jesus spoke to His disciples, “Go into the world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16:15)
This presents a bold calling for each of us. What are your talents? What if your talents complemented the talents of someone sitting in the pew a few rows away from you on Sunday morning? Great possibilities lie within each of us to make this world a safer, blessed and holier place.
What is God calling you to do? Are you tuned in? Are you listening?
Story and photography by Anne Petroff
Published in the Catholic Life March 2020 issue