Evangelization hits Oskaloosa airwaves

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

OSKALOOSA — Greg Peiffer was having trouble sleeping one night in the fall of 2013. He turned on an EWTN radio stream on his smart phone and heard an announcement that the FCC would be accepting new applications for low-power FM stations for the first time in 10 years.

Father Jeff Belger
WMFH-LP 95.7 board members Marvin Feist, Mark Mauer, Tom Gaughan, Greg Peiffer and crane contractor Bruce Veenstra worked to install a radio tower on the grounds of St. Mary Parish in Oskaloosa last month. EWTN radio is now broadcasting on the low-fi station.

He believed there was a reason he couldn’t sleep that night: God was calling him to pursue a Catholic radio station in Oskaloosa. “The Lord asked me to apply! … I figured that if it was meant to be, the doors would open,” said Peiffer, a member of St. Mary Parish in Sigourney who works as an insurance agent in Oskaloosa. Because Oskaloosa is the bigger of the two towns, he chose to pursue a station where more people could hear it. While there were “many hoops to jump through,” Catholic radio station WMFH-LP 95.7 hit the airwaves March 29. It broadcasts EWTN programming.

Catholic radio helps draw people closer to the Catholic Church, Peiffer believes. “There is a big market for fallen-away Catholics who might dial into a radio station and really explore their lost faith.” He’s hoping they’ll be inspired to walk back into the church.

The first step in the application process was aligning with the local nonprofit My Father’s House because open stations were available only to nonprofit educational entities. My Father’s House, which attempted to open a home for retired priests in the early 1990s, decided the radio station was a great new direction to pursue. Peiffer considered this a blessing, since “it is difficult and takes a lot of time to get a nonprofit started.” MFH in the station’s call letters stands for “My Father’s House.”

Peiffer also needed support from the community, which came through in a big way. The Oskaloosa parish offered to place the radio tower on its property next to the old rectory.

Along with My Father’s House and local businesses, the parish helped raise the $20,000 necessary to establish the station. Parishioners, the Knights of Columbus Council, Parish Council, buildings and ground committee and Pastor Father Jeff Belger “bought into this idea and helped in so many ways.… I think it’s neat that the church and parish have ownership in this station in that they helped it to be a success and be on the air.”

Fr. Belger said he regularly listened to ETWN streams on his smart phone and is a fan of Catholic radio. He thought having a local station would help increase access to the programming, even for those with smart phones, since the radio broadcasts don’t require the listener to pay for phone data. Besides being a “great tool for evangelization,” he said the broadcasts personally help him focus on his priestly responsibilities and offer insight and inspiration for homilies.

The radio station consistently broadcasts within a 6-mile radius of the tower, though Peiffer said people have been able to access the signal from Albia 20 miles away.
While the station does not currently have original programming, Peiffer said he hopes to broadcast local homilies and bulletin announcements in the future. He’d also like to see local youths get involved in programming. “We want to help promote parish (activities) and announcements or whatever it takes to help promote the parish and evangelization.”

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