Deacon Gregorio Elizalde makes a point during a recent broadcast of La Voz Católica, a Catholic faith formation program on Spanish radio station La Nueva in Omaha. SAMANTHA WORTHING

News

La Voz Católica radio program messages faith and hope

Catholic formation and inspiration.

Not what you’d expect from a secular radio station, but they’re what listeners of La Nueva, a Spanish station in Omaha, are getting Saturdays at 10 a.m.

The hour-long program, hosted by Deacon Gregorio Elizalde of St. Peter Parish in Omaha, aims to nourish the souls of the faithful as well as the unchurched.

“We look forward to it,” said Mirna Chech-Price, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk. “I enjoy that he brings on different people and priests to talk further about our faith.”

One of her favorite parts of the program is the reflection on the day’s Gospel reading. “Even if you’ve already received the message through the priest at Mass that day, you are receiving another reflection – another insight into the Gospel,” she said.

She said she listens regularly because the topics are interesting. She cited a recent program with Father Matthew Niggemeyer, associate pastor of four parishes in Cuming County, which dug deeply into the Protestant Reformation.

“I like those types of topics because it’s a lot of history,” she said.

A CHRISTIAN CALLING

Deacon Elizalde, who also is manager of the Hispanic Ministry Office for the Archdiocese of Omaha, sees his role on the program as an answer to his Christian calling.

“Jesus tells us to go to all the world,” he said. “It’s one of our responsibilities as Christians. There are so many people suffering because they have not heard the voice of God, the voice of joy, the voice of hope and love.”

Before the program began two years ago, Deacon Elizalde had been working to share Christ’s message at his parish, but kept wondering how to best reach those not in church. He and others in the archdiocese considered the option of a Catholic Hispanic radio station, but the associated expenses were prohibitive.

Then they looked into producing a one-hour weekly program on an already established Spanish station. It was much more affordable and still provided significant benefits. “I was asking how, and the opportunity opened,” he said.

GOING LIVE

La Voz Católica first aired Aug. 26, 2018, on another channel, Radio Lobo. This earlier version of the program was a collaborative effort between the Omaha and Lincoln dioceses.

The pre-recorded program ran Sunday mornings at 8 a.m. and featured local commentary, presentations, interviews and music. Past guests included nationally known apologists, authors and speakers such as Fernando Casanova, theology professor and EWTN television host, and Alejandro Bermudez, executive director of ACI Prenza and EWTN radio host.

While an increasing audience indicated growing interest, Deacon Elizalde said people wanted more connection and someone to answer their questions.

On May 2, 2020, La Voz Católica moved to La Nueva and began live transmission. The program, now sponsored solely by the Omaha archdiocese, begins and ends with pre-recorded messages from Archbishop George J. Lucas. He encourages listeners to enjoy the message of hope and faith and invites them to Sunday Mass.

The rest of the content, which includes local, national and international news, music and a reflection on the day’s Gospel reading by a priest, is live, except for the music. The featured guest may be a local priest, religious or lay person covering a variety of topics or ministries.

“The topics are many, but we always use apologetics, the Bible and Church documents,” Deacon Elizalde said. “We also try to open the lines every program … people can call in, ask questions and offer comments.”

The program’s move to La Nueva’s AM (1020) and FM (99.5) channels also has expanded its broadcast coverage to almost all of Nebraska and parts of eastern Iowa. Deacon Elizalde said people from across the state have called to express appreciation.

“We receive comments like the one from Antulio de Leon from Columbus, who called and said, ‘Thank you very much for this teaching (a three-program series on Mary in May). It deepened our faith,’” Deacon Elizalde said.

The live show also allows people to give testimonies. Deacon Elizalde said one call-in guest can inspire other listeners, who later call to share how the testimony changed their lives.

FEEDING SOULS

Gonzolo Palma is another regular listener, a fellow parishioner at St. Peter Parish and a deacon candidate in his third year of formation. He has even joined Deacon Elizalde on the show.

After being on the program, Palma’s co-workers began asking him things they did not feel comfortable asking on-air.

“They were compelled to ask their questions,” Palma said. “I think the Spirit is moving. … The program is making them think.”

He said he sympathizes with people whose many responsibilities leave little time for spiritual development. He also applauded the archdiocese’s and Deacon Elizalde’s desire to meet them in their busy lives.

“We forget to study our faith, to take time for ourselves, especially men with families,” Palma said. “(La Voz Católica) is a way to perhaps respond to the situation we live in now and an awakening. We can find ways to feed our souls with the Word of God. This is one of them.”