LAFLIN — When the only Catholic radio station in the area was about to shut down in 2008, Ed Niewinski and his wife Carol Ann were not about to let that happen.
The two secured a loan of $110,000 and purchased the station, forming JMJ Catholic Radio. The station was in Scranton at the time, but was moved to the Oblates of Saint Joseph where it’s been for the last 10 years.
“The expenses were just way too high,” Ed said of the Scranton location. “That was the time where I talked to Fr. Paul (McDonell) who I’d known for many years before and asked if there was any possibility we could move the station to the Oblates of St. Joseph.”
The Very Reverend Fr. Paul McDonnell. O.S.J., is the Provincial Superior of the Oblates of Saint Joseph, U.S.A., and also serves as spiritual advisor and board member to the radio station.
He is the former pastor at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (now St. Joseph Marello Parish) and said when he became priest at the Oblates of Saint Joseph, the station was the perfect opportunity to freshen things up a bit.
“For too long, we were known to be ‘Oh yeah, the Oblates, that’s where you play basketball. Oh, that’s where the coin show is. Oh, that’s where the mineral show is,’” McDonnell said. “That’s nice and everything, but I wanted the people to say ‘Oh, the Oblates, that’s where I go to confession and go to Mass.’
“So, there was this private prayer that I prayed to Saint Joseph when I got here that I wanted this place to really undergo a spiritual transformation and a physical transformation, as well. I’m into this about a year or so, and in comes Carol Ann and Ed, and they bring this offer to me about bringing in the Catholic radio station, and that’s the answer to my prayer. “
The station operates at the Oblates of Saint Joseph rent free and is also a 501c3 non-profit organization.
Ed and Carol Ann purchased used equipment, and the station now has a computer monitor, two microphones and a soundboard.
When JMJ Catholic Radio first started, it was only found on 750 AM, but the Niewinskis have purchased three other channels since then — 98.9 FM, 1490 AM, and 91.7 FM.
750 AM and 98.9 FM cover the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area while 1490 AM covers Hazleton and 91.7 FM covers Dushore.
“All of these stations, we never went out and looked for one,” said Ed. “Everyone came to us. We would’ve never had 98.9, we would’ve never had Hazleton, we would have never had Dushore. All of these came to us.”
The station is broadcasting programs 24/7 from all over the country and is affiliated with Eternal World Television based in Alabama, from where the programs originate.
Local programs include Spanish Mass with Fr. Victor Leon, Fr. Leo McKernan Reflections, Stations of the Cross and discussions of world topics.
“Social injustice issues, current events that faithful Catholics should be up about whether it’s transgender issues and all of the things making the news, how do we respond as committed Christians and Catholics,” McDonnell said. “Violence going on and killings at school — those types of things.”
With 10 years in the books, Ed and Carol Ann are looking forward to adding more local programs and continuing to grow the station, but only if the opportunity is right.
“We’re not looking to go out and buy other stations,” Ed said. “If other opportunities present themselves, we take it to our board and, if we feel we can justify the expense, then we’ll take the business risk.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher