Totus Tuus Catholic Radio
On the radio dial: WMKP-LP 98.9 FM
Contact: Carol Bush at email@example.com
How to donate: Visit www.wmkpfm.com
When Carol Bush first contacted Mark Peffer about starting a Catholic radio station in Gainesville, she was thinking about herself.
“I was really doing it for me, because I’m not one to listen to music when I’m driving around,” Bush said. “I wanted Catholic radio in my car. That was it.
“But it has become something much bigger.”
Bush and Peffer have been hard at work. On Jan. 12, the pair started broadcasting from Totus Tuus Catholic Radio on WMKP-LP 98.9 FM in Gainesville.
The station does not have any local shows. Instead it broadcasts live, call-in shows from EWTN Radio, an Alabama-based global Catholic network. “Take 2 with Jerry and Debbie,” weekdays at noon, discusses personal, spiritual and cultural issues. “Women of Grace,” hosted by Johnette Benkovic, discusses topics of special interest to women.
“There’s a variety of different shows,” Bush said. “But one of my favorites is at 2 p.m. They have ‘Called to Communion,’ which is when only non-Catholics are allowed to call with questions or criticisms of the church. It’s a very interesting hour.”
Bush said bringing Catholic radio to Gainesville has been in the works for years.
“Mark Peffer and I got together in the fall of 2009 and discussed the possibility of having a Catholic radio station,” she said. “At the time, I was driving to Norcross for work, and I just didn’t like most morning talk shows. I wanted to listen to something more uplifting.”
Neither Bush or Peffer knew the first thing about starting a radio station.
She said the first step was contacting the Archdiocese of Atlanta to get permission. It was soon given, and Totus Tuus Catholic Radio Inc. was incorporated Jan. 1, 2010, with a nonprofit status.
“Totus Tuus” is a Latin phrase meaning “totally yours,” which was made popular by Pope St. John Paul II.
Peffer said the phrase is a good motto for the station.
“It is a phrase that means to give ourselves to our lady, to Mary, to give our lives to her so she can bring that to her son, Jesus,” he said.
Peffer and Bush spent the next three years running “The Catholic Hour” on WDUN, which had previously been produced by Deacon Ken Lampert.
“WDUN was wonderful to us,” Bush said. “They allowed us to go into their studio and use it, invite people to come in, and we were able to do a whole lot there.”
In the meantime, Totus Tuus received donations and a grant from the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia, which they used to apply for a construction permit of a low-power FM station.
“We had been notified by the Catholic Radio Association that a window was going to open up for low-power FM stations,” she said. “We had already determined we would not be able to build a big, huge FM station covering all of Atlanta, because the cost of that would have been several million dollars.”
Over the next year and a half, construction came together in a way that Bush said often felt “miraculous” on their limited budget.
“We tried to plan out how we were going to do this,” Bush said. “How do we build a station with $30,000?”
Bush and Peffer spoke with several experts — including her brother in Florida — regarding insurance, radio and power.
They learned they could construct the entire “station” in a box at the foot of a tower.
And that’s exactly what they did.
The box has heating and air conditioning, with a computer inside hooked to the Internet. It is attached to a Jackson EMC tower in Gainesville, and Totus Tuus has a lease with the power company.
“The Lord’s hand was really there,” Bush said.
In the three weeks Totus Tuus Radio has been on air, Bush said they have received increased donations and a positive response from the community.
A woman in Lee Arrendale State Prison in Alto reached out to say she’s listened every Sunday night.
“She would send us $8 out of her little bank account in prison,” Bush said. “She would write the longest letters telling us what this meant to her.”
Bush and Peffer said it has been encouraging to hear the response so far.
“We have a lot of folks at church who have heard the station, and they are really excited that they can get Catholic radio any time of day,” Peffer said.
Another woman walked into St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Gainesville after listening to the station.
“She said, ‘I’m Baptist and I’ve always believed Catholics were the devil. But I’ve been listening to your program, and I want to learn more,’” Bush said. “You never know until you get those responses, if you are doing any good out there or not.”