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Christendom broadcasts state's first Catholic radio station

Niall O'Donnell, associate director of marketing and public relations at Christendom College, stands beside the broadcast rack of the Catholic college's new radio station where he serves as station manager. Rich Cooley/Daily

The transmitter for Christendom College's new radio station WXDM 90.3 is mounted on top of this tower beside the college's gymnasium complex. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Kim Walter

FRONT ROYAL -- After a lengthy process of purchasing equipment and getting permits approved, Christendom College is now broadcasting the only Catholic radio station in Virginia.

The station, WXDM 90.3 FM, launched Nov. 30 and the college's radio tower and transmitter were blessed by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde last week.

Christendom, a Roman Catholic Liberal Arts College, seemed like the perfect venue for such a project when the topic was being discussed a year ago, according to those involved.

Niall O'Donnell, WXDM's general manager, said college board members made the process a little easier as they donated funds for equipment and permits. The transmitter and radio tower, along with other smaller devices, cost around $20,000.

"We were definitely working on a tight budget," he said Thursday. "But donors really stepped up because with us being an educational facility, it made sense for us to take this on."

Currently, the station is broadcasting the EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network, which provides an around-the-clock feed of authentic Catholic radio coverage. O'Donnell said a majority of the broadcast is talk radio, but mass services are also on rotation.

"A lot of it is hearing the everyday person call in and talk about their faith and ask questions about how to get through struggles or how to grow in their relationship with God," he said. "Personally, I've realized that it's easy to get caught up in work and family, so it's nice to tune in and remind yourself that God plays a role in every aspect of life."

Since launching the station, the college has received plenty of positive feedback, particularly from the Catholic community in Front Royal and Warren County.

But it's not just Front Royal that can tune in. With a 190W-powered signal, the station reaches down into Bentonville and up into parts of Winchester. O'Donnell said they are working to cover all of Winchester, and they've heard that some people have been able to get the station in Strasburg.

"It's reaching farther than we originally anticipated," he said.

Over the next couple of years, the college hopes to incorporate some of its own programming. O'Donnell said he hopes that will entice more students to listen to the station.

"I think the station isn't one that interests the demographic here on campus," he said. "It'd be great if they do listen every once in a while, but they're college students. They've got their own music and talk shows they like to listen to."

He said several students studying communications and media have approached him with ideas for their own programs. One would be a short show featuring different professors at the college who would answer questions or discuss current topics and how faith plays a part in it.

"We'd like to work some kind of internship program out, which would be great not only for the students who want to work in media, but also to get the college's name out there," O'Donnell said. "Of course, it would be great to get more students listening to the station as a whole, too, and maybe that will start with them just tuning in to hear a friend."

O'Donnell said recent studies have found that "94 percent of Catholic radio listeners are more spiritually engaged and inspired, 47 percent attend mass more frequently, and 31 percent have returned to the church because of the programming."

"With statistics like this, there is no doubt that our station will have a positive impact on our local community," he said.

For more information on the network and scheduled programming, go to ewtn.com/radio.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com


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