Radio CorMariae debuts new monthly
‘Catholic Citizenship’ program

By Kenneth J. Souza
Co-Editor
kensouza@anchornews.org

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — Radio CorMariae, the sole Catholic radio station operating within the Fall River Diocese, is hoping to reach more listeners with the latest addition to its programming lineup — an original, one-hour monthly talk show produced in-house entitled “Catholic Citizenship.”

The show made its debut last month and is produced and co-hosted by Father Alan B. Maria Wharton, F.I., one of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate residing and ministering at Our Lady’s Chapel in downtown New Bedford.

The first episode aired, appropriately enough, on Election Day, Tuesday, November 5, and included an in-depth conversation about natural law — a “pillar” or principle of Catholic citizenship. 

“We began production in August and the intention was to come out with an episode for September, which didn’t happen,” Father Wharton recently told The Anchor. “The Rosary Coast to Coast was ramping up and so our resources had to be diverted to that and we couldn’t complete the first episode in time. But we did finish it and put it on the air on Election Day.”

Father Wharton’s co-host is Jonathan Hill, a regular adorer at Our Lady’s Chapel and someone who has a strong interest in natural law and Constitutional government and who sees a need for citizens to gain an understanding in these areas in order to be effective in restoring a Christian social order.

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The program’s first guest was Attorney Tom Harvey, chairman of the Massachusetts Alliance to Stop Taxpayer-Funded Abortion, who recently organized a statewide effort to collect signatures for a Pro-Life Constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot to end the public funding of abortion in Massachusetts.

“If people understand these things, they will tend to support and volunteer for important initiatives like this petition drive,” Hill said. “An initial experience of Christian activism will likely encourage them to be more active in a broader range of issues, when they realize they can actually make a difference.”

“The first episode is really about that interview and introducing the show itself,” Father Wharton added. “What is this program? Why are we doing it? What do we hope to accomplish by it? What’s the focus and the approach to talking about Catholic Citizenship?”

The origins of “Catholic Citizenship” can be traced back to Father Wharton’s days studying in the seminary.

“The phrase or the term ‘Catholic Citizenship’ is something that’s been percolating in the back of my mind since seminary days, back around 2007 or 2008,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in the application of our faith to real life. I would call it ‘making it real.’ It’s like, OK, you say you believe these things, then what are you going to do about it? Sit around and just let it continue or are you going to try to make it stop and get out and exercise your rights?”

When he started at Radio CorMariae, Father Wharton met a woman named Renee Russo who was doing an internship at the station.

“This was about 18 months ago,” Father Wharton said. “She was working on completing a master’s in professional writing. So she came up with the idea of an episode proposal, and she submitted two ideas based on the discussions we were having. This show was one of them.”

It was Russo who also suggested Jonathan Hill as the show’s co-host.

“She met Jonathan when they were working together on a local political campaign,” Father Wharton said. “She suggested him as a co-host and we work on it together. Renee is still involved remotely, because she’s now in Philadelphia.”

Not being a native of Massachusetts, Father Wharton said it’s good to have a co-host like Hill who is not only a kindred spirit when it comes to matters of the faith, but is also familiar with the local political scene.

And while the notion of dedicating a talk show to religion and politics might be risky, Father Wharton isn’t looking to create controversy.

“The show is not about promoting the Republicans and putting down the Democratic Party, because there’s plenty of problems in the Republican platform from a Catholic point-of-view,” he said.

For Father Wharton, the whole crux of “Catholic Citizenship” is not only to educate people about current events and politics, but also to provide a solid formation in their faith.

“When I say it’s the ‘Catholic Citizenship’ program, of course the first thought is: ‘Oh, you’re talking about a radio program,’ and we are — but really it’s more than that,” he said. “It’s a program in the sense of ‘get with the program’ — a program of formation and it’s going to be multimedia. That would be the model for every episode where you have video interviews, a video blog, and other interview-type things, and then the monthly program to correspond with each show.”

Given the limited resources of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, producing the program has been very time-consuming for Father Wharton. Thankfully, he’s had assistance from members of their devoted lay association, the Mission of the Immaculate Mediatrix.

“We have a few members from the MIM who are participating,” he said. “We even have a 15-year-old, one of the sons of a woman who’s also involved. We have two teams: a content production team, which is myself and Jonathan, the co-host; and Renee Russo, who is a major contributor. And then we have a technical production team of about five people.”

Even with this team in place, Father Wharton admitted it’s been “a lot of work” to get it right.

“We could always just grab a recorder, record something and put it on the air, but that’s not the way I want to do radio,” Father Wharton said. “For me, the gold standard of radio production is NPR. Even though I don’t necessarily agree with their positions, their production quality is just fantastic. That’s kind of the model in my mind. I want something that’s well-produced and sounds good, and that takes time.”

To that end, Father Wharton said they are still looking for help and would welcome anyone with an interest or skill in audio technology who might be willing to volunteer their services to contact him at Our Lady’s Chapel at 508-996-8274.

The second episode of the show aired December 1 and focused on the Solemnity of Christ the King, the final Sunday of the Liturgical cycle that was celebrated on November 24. The show featured University of Massachusetts School of Law Professor and Anchor columnist Dwight Duncan as its guest.

“We wanted something more uplifting and less controversial as a good lead into Christmas,” Father Wharton said.

The Radio CorMariae production team is now busy working on the next episode that they hope to air before Christmas.

“My thought is we’ll talk about something family-oriented for the Holy Family (and) discuss the sanctity of the family,” Father Wharton said. “I hope we get to the point of being able to do one in-depth interview a week, which then becomes material to incorporate into the monthly hour-long episode. The interviews will be freeform and we’re going to post a video of the recorded interview in its entirety on our website. Hopefully that will keep people interested because if you only produce one show a month, what do you do in between?”

Those who may have missed the original airings of “Catholic Citizenship” or are outside Radio CorMariae’s listening area can find the show online at the following link: https://radiocormariae.com/category/cathcitz/cathcitz_episode/. It can also be accessed via the radio station’s smartphone app.

Moving forward, Father Wharton hopes “Catholic Citizenship” will engage listeners and maybe encourage them to become more active in civic affairs while considering how their faith factors into the decisions they make.

“The crux of the problem for so many Catholics today is they don’t let their faith influence their political decisions,” he said. “They’re there for the fulfillment of their civic duties. In other words, voting is a civic duty and there’s too many Catholics voting for candidates who stand firmly opposed to Catholic teaching.

“With Catholicism, you’re either sincere or you’re not really Catholic. But when it comes to politics, it’s different. That’s not religion — we’re not talking about Salvation. It’s a matter of how do we manage life in a way that’s just and proper.”


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