SAN DIEGO – Since it began broadcasting five years ago, St. John Paul II Catholic Radio has borne much spiritual fruit and fostered Catholic community in the Imperial Valley.
“We get letters all the time,” said Raul Caro, the radio apostolate’s founder and director, referring to the many listeners who have shared that they have a better understanding of the faith and are closer to God as a result of the Catholic programming that airs 24 hours a day on KCJP 95.7 FM in El Centro and K227BN 93.3 FM in Brawley.
Caro may soon be receiving similar feedback from Catholics in San Diego County. His new station, KFSD 1450 AM, will start beaming Catholic content from a radio tower in Escondido, beginning in mid-February.
St. John Paul II Catholic Radio (JP2 Radio) covers most of Imperial County and can be accessed online at jp2radio.com.
The new station will expand its reach to an additional million potential listeners. During daytime hours, the signal will carry to most of San Diego County, excluding the South Bay. He hopes to acquire an affiliate station in downtown San Diego in late spring to further expand the coverage area.
San Diego County already has Catholic radio programming, courtesy of Relevant Radio, which can be heard on KCEO 1000 AM. Caro believes that JP2 Radio has something to offer, based on the community-minded approach that it has cultivated in the Imperial Valley.
“Rather than be another syndicated network feed, we try to be more of a local, community radio station,” said Caro. “That’s what our real goal is.”
(On the Spanish-language side, two Internet-based stations provide local Catholic programming, hombrenuevo.com and renovacioncatolicasd.com/radio. In addition, Los Angeles-based Guadalupe Radio provides programming online at guadaluperadio.com.)
JP2 Radio, an apostolate of the Lay Brothers of the Poor, is 501c3 nonprofit corporation supported by listeners.
Before JP2 Radio made its debut in El Centro, Caro said, Catholic events in the Imperial Valley were “few and far between.” But then, the radio apostolate began hosting an annual dinner in 2015 and an annual winter conference in 2016. These events drew between 400 and 500 people from throughout the region, fostered community, and provided opportunities to hear popular Catholic radio personalities, like Patrick Madrid, Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa and Dr. Ray Guarendi in person, he said.
Early 2019 marked the debut of the station’s first locally produced show, “Sacred Heart Narratives.”
More recently, when the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of high school commencements, Caro said, the station accepted a local pastor’s request to announce the names of graduating Catholic high school students as they arrived for a socially distant drive-by event.
“We’ve done a lot of little things like that that made a big difference,” said Caro, who expressed hope that the station might be able to accomplish similar things in San Diego County.
Caro said that his radio operation prides itself on being independent, broadcasting curated content from three Catholic radio networks – EWTN, Ave Maria and Relevant Radio – picking what he believes to be “the best blend” of programming. Ultimately, he would like to establish a physical studio in San Diego County and is seeking community partners to produce San Diego-specific content.
Steve Beuerle, who with Caro serves as co-director of IHS Media, the nonprofit that was formed to purchase the San Diego-based radio station, agreed that the station will be “much more local” and “much more live.”
Explaining how there is room in San Diego County for both Relevant Radio and St. John Paul II Catholic Radio, Beuerle predicted that some listeners will naturally prefer one station’s format and other listeners will discover favorite shows on both stations and alternate between them.
Beuerle noted that the station will be airing “Catholic Answers Live.”
The popular apologetics show, which boasts listeners nationwide but is produced locally in El Cajon, was dropped from Relevant Radio’s line-up in December 2018, said its host, Cy Kellett. Because Relevant Radio operates most of the Catholic radio stations in California, that means that “Catholic Answers Live” hasn’t aired in much of the state in recent years.
Kellett explained that, while “Catholic Answers Live” has been broadcast by St. John Paul II Catholic Radio in the Imperial Valley and on a low-power FM station in downtown San Diego, KFSD (AM 1450) will be “a big, booming station that covers a much larger listening audience.”
“People at my parish might stop asking me what I’m doing now that ‘Catholic Answers Live’ is no longer on,” Kellett quipped. “We’re on nearly 400 stations in the U.S. alone, last year we took the show to Australia for the first time, we get calls from all over the world … but being heard here will mean our friends and neighbors will know what we’re up to.
“There really is no such thing as a healthy apostolate that is cut off from its own local Church, and we don’t want to be,” he said. “This will help us maintain that healthy connection.”
St. John Paul II Catholic Radio started its first station in May 2015, after Caro and Father Ed Horning recognized a need for English-language Catholic radio programming in the Imperial Valley, which already was being served by the Spanish-language Catholic radio station El Sembrador.
Caro noted that people who are driving or sitting in their cars for long periods of time come to develop a relationship with the talk radio hosts they listen to and find themselves relating to the callers, their personal testimonies and their questions.
“It’s a personal experience,” Caro said. “That’s why radio continues to be so popular.”
With high poverty and unemployment rates in Imperial County, area Catholics have frequently benefited from financial assistance from their counterparts in neighboring San Diego County to fund the construction of churches and to provide support for various ministries.
Caro sees the introduction of the new radio station as “a way to help pay back San Diego, not in terms financially, but in a spiritual sense.”
St. John Paul II Catholic Radio plans to begin broadcasting in San Diego County in February on KFSD AM 1450. The organization has two stations in the Imperial Valley, 95.7 FM in El Centro and 93.3 FM in Brawley. For more information, visit jp2radio.com.