It might be one of the best-kept secrets – a Catholic radio station right here in Portland-proper’s own back yard.
Tucked away toward the back of the University of Portland campus in North Portland, in a modest building near where the university’s campus groundskeepers house their equipment, is the headquarters for KBVM Radio, a station with round-the-clock Catholic programming. Since Dec. 8, 1989 – the launch of its first broadcast, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception – the station has consistently continued its ministry: To embrace the church’s teachings, spread the word of God through music and prayer and promote the church’s devotions, particularly the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin.
For sure the station has a dedicated following, yet many local Catholics are unaware of its presence. Increasing the station’s visibility is one of the goals of Tony Galati, the station’s executive director for the past year and a half.
“Competing with the secular media can be challenging, but we feel as though we offer something unique, something different – and we want to get our message out there,” says Galati.
KBVM broadcasts throughout the greater metro areas of Portland, Salem and Vancouver, Wash., on 88.3 FM, and reaches as far north as Chehalis, Wash., and as far south as Corvallis. In The Dalles, the station dial is 99.1 FM. Collectively, KBVM reaches 2.4 million listeners, including those who access the station on the Internet at www.kbvm.fm.
At the time of its launch, it was the first lay-Catholic radio station in the United States, and it remains Oregon’s only Catholic radio station.
KBVM’s programming is vast yet focuses on five core areas: Catholic families – segments intended to uphold moral values and strengthen families; Music – liturgical, contemporary Christian, Marian and seasonal music selections to provide inspiration and encouragement; Education – programming focused on church teaching, Scripture, pro-life and marriage; Latino Ministry – educational and prayer segments in Spanish; and Prayer – daily rosary, Angelus, daily Scripture readings and daily Mass, among others. Its programming is a combination of local interviews and broadcasts and nationally syndicated shows and speakers.
A front-burner task for KBVM is reaching out to the Northwest’s growing Hispanic community by broadcasting pertinent Spanish programming, while at the same time maintaining its longtime, loyal, English-speaking audience.
Alvaro Angel, a native of Colombia, serves as the station’s director of Spanish programming.
Seeking political asylum, he arrived to the U.S. eight years ago and began volunteering at the station. It blossomed into a full-time position – a role that enables him to serve “as an instrument of God,” he says.
“I look at all of my Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters – from Mexico, Central America, South America – and I feel that I understand their needs,” says Angel.
“We all understand each other…the problems and challenges of being immigrants to a new country…it’s a kind of fraternity.
“And it’s easy to lose your faith when you move to a new place,” he continues. “You can get caught up in earning more money, buying new material things…there’s so much more in the U.S., and it gets confusing. My hope is that by reaching out through KBVM, we can attract some of our newest brothers and sisters, so that they stay in touch with their Catholic history, their roots and feel more at home in their new community here,” says Angel.
As of this summer, KBVM has expanded its Spanish programming to two hours daily, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. New programs include “La Hora de la Virgen Guadalupe,” a live call-in intercessory prayer hour on Wednesdays, as well as “Catequesis,” on Fridays.
English, Spanish, local broadcasts, national syndicates – no matter the programming, the station’s mission remains the same: To “preach the Gospel to all creation” (Mk 16:15), as per KBVM’s brochure.
“That’s what attracted me to KBVM,” says David Endres, who arrived at the station four months ago as its development director. He also does some on-air work for the program, “Catholic Sports Update.”
“I was searching to work with an organization that had meaning for me and was fulfilling, both professionally and spiritually,” he says.
That seems to be the mantra for the rest of the seven-person staff and volunteer cadre of 70.
KBVM is participating in the Oct. 6 “Pray 2007” Rosary Bowl in Volcanoe Stadium in Keizer. Its purpose is to encourage Catholics and others to embrace faith through prayer of the rosary. For more details, visit www.walkingword.org.
The station’s bi-annual Sharathon – a call-in pledge drive – starts Monday, Oct. 8 and continues through Friday, Oct. 12.
As a non-commercial, educational radio station, KBVM can’t carry advertising. With an overall annual budget of $650,000, successful Sharathons are integral to KBVM’s future, as they account for approximately two-thirds of the station’s annual budget.
“Once upon a time, a group in Portland thought it would be a good idea to broadcast the rosary on the radio,” says Galati. “KBVM has grown over the years to do that and more. And with the continued support of many people in our community, we will advance our ministry in the Pacific Northwest.”