Orange County parishioners have a new go-to for Catholic messages, inspiration and entertainment — with local flavor and area-specific information tossed in.
As a kind of Valentine’s Day gift to the community, Deacon Steve Greco and his Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry in conjunction with the Diocese of Orange, launched a new internet station, Spirit Filled Radio (spiritfilledmedia.org/radio), on Feb. 15.
The venture offers daily weekday Catholic talk radio, evening Christian music and morning devotionals seven days a week.
While there are other Catholic networks, Spirit Filled is different and provides shows specific to the area.
In addition to regularly scheduled programming that can be tuned into with an app, the station offers a rapidly expanding list of shows and podcasts that can be downloaded.
Deacon Greco, a parishioner at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Irvine, said listeners can either peruse shows at their leisure, or download episodes for deeper dives.
“We’re giving options more than anything else,” he said. “We wanted something that would be of value no matter what.”
Unlike other Catholic radio alternatives, 70 percent of the show hosts are Southern California-based, according to Katie Hughes, general manager of media for Spirit Filled Hearts.
“One of the best aspects will be as we grow, we’ll be able to do a lot of promotions on what’s happening at Christ Cathedral campus or in the diocese…” said Jim Governale, radio program manager for the diocese, who also produces a number of the shows and podcasts.
“It’s tailored to the lifestyle of the local diocese, which is different from San Francisco and L.A.,” said Father Al Baca, whose show “Evangelization Now” has launched. “Anything that represents our diocese is a win-win.”
ROOTS IN IN-PERSON MINISTRY
Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry was created in 2014 by Greco and was a thriving endeavor, participating in live events in Orange County, surrounding dioceses and Western states. Venues ranged from small parishes to large conference halls.
Whether it was talking about the Blessed Mother, evangelization or healing, Greco girded his messages with positivity.
“The whole purpose was to spread good news, evangelizing and to be encouraging,” he said.
And then — you know what’s next — along came the COVID-19 pandemic.
Spirit Filled Hearts pivoted into the virtual space.
The new world of online conferencing “wasn’t an option, it became a necessity,” Greco said.
“A lot of ministries had to reshape, rethink and acclimate,” Hughes said.
Greco discovered a new universe and audience online.
We think virtual events are here to stay. We’re getting bigger audiences,” Greco says of the reach of online communication.
ST. JOSEPH SUMMIT
One of Spirit Filled Hearts’ major undertakings this year, which Greco sees expanding both the radio and ministry scope, is The Year of St. Joseph summit. A four-day global online event, Sept. 30 – Oct. 3, it will feature presentations from bishops, priests, religious, evangelists and lay leaders. Those who register to virtually attend will be able to interact and participate in live daily prayer and healing services. Greco said he hopes to have 50,000 to 100,000 registrants.
In starting Spirit Filled Radio, Greco had a trump card of sorts. He had built a national following on Relevant Radio, recording 300 shows. Greco brought his show to Spirit Filled Radio and is hosting another show with his wife Mary Anne.
After some changes at Relevant Radio and after consulting with Bishop Kevin Vann, Greco dove into creating the O.C. radio station.
“This wasn’t our plan,” said Hughes, who has worked with Greco since 2017.
However, she said the Lord spoke to her and Greco telling them, “You really need to do this.” We were: “‘Ok, Lord.”
The station’s programming is a work in process, with new shows augmented by existing programs that have gained popularity on their own, such as Father Christopher Smith’s “Cathedral Square” podcasts, host Rick Howick’s “OC Catholic Radio” and the national “Catholic Answers.”
Popular local hosts and shows include “Father Augustine and Friends,” with Norbertine Father Augustine Puchner, and “Fullness of Grace” with Father Quan Tran of St. Bonaventure Church in Huntington Beach.
There are also several shows hosted by lay people such as Hughes’ show, “Thy Kingdom Come,” and another by Christine Mooney-Flynn, the “Catholic Mama.”
Bishops Vann and Timothy Freyer are regular guests.
The station has original programs Monday, Wednesday and Friday and rebroadcasts on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The station picked up 7,000 listeners in its first month and Greco said his goal is to have 200,000 listeners within two to three years. He said more than 2,000 podcasts have already been downloaded and more are regularly becoming available.
So far, Greco has been enthused by the response and the chance to deliver the Word.
“We talk about how-to’s, not issues of the day,” he said, “how to live in faith, in a profound way.”