By Peter Finney Jr.
Can you hear me now?
For the last three years, Catholic Community Radio has gained a foothold at 690 on the AM dial, which many silver-haired locals who grew up in the 1960s will recall as WTIX, the New Orleans home of rock-and-roll known as “The Mighty 690.”
Now WQNO 690 AM – creatively marketed by Catholic Community Radio as “The Almighty’s 690” – has something else to shout about.
WQNO recently completed a nearly three-year project in Chalmette near the 4500 block of Paris Road, erecting two 235-foot towers that have added a powerful punch to its broadcast signal, moving from 2,500 watts to 9,100 watts.
A stronger voice
Technical jargon aside, the boosted signal, which came at a cost of $650,000, will mean more clarity, power and reach into the Dioceses of Houma-Thibodaux and Biloxi and beyond, said David Dawson Sr., president of Catholic Community Radio.
“We’ve been waiting for over two years for this project to be finished, and it’s just a feeling of gratitude and gratefulness that it’s finally come to completion,” Dawson said. “This has met our expectations. The signal is stronger. We’re getting some incredible feedback where the signal was weak. People are telling us we’re louder and stronger and that they hear us.”
The two towers were officially powered up on June 29 – the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul – which Dawson refers to as another divine coincidence.
Part of the station’s capital campaign was to give the two towers the names St. Peter and St. Paul.
A ‘God wink’
“Our FCC lawyer called in June to say we had permission to fire them up, and I called up Ernie Kain, our broadcast engineer, and Ernie said, ‘I can’t do it today, but I can do it tomorrow,’” Dawson said. “And then I looked up that the next day was June 29, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. Ernie fired it up and we let it sit a little while to make sure we didn’t have any problems and to make sure we could adjust our volumes to make sure the sound was right.”
The tower construction took less than a week, Kain said, but the difficult part of the process was laying out a spoke-like network of copper wire that had to rest in the water at the foot of the towers.
Along the way, WQNO got the help of an airboat operator, Frog Naquin, who could operate in shallow water and more easily distribute the wire.
“The wires are part of your signal strength – it all works together,” Dawson said. “When the water is covering it up, it makes it even better.”
Dawson said the station has raised about $250,000 for the project and is actively seeking the additional $400,000.
Calls from three states away
Dawson already is receiving calls that the station signal sometimes reached the Florida panhandle. The stronger New Orleans signal works well with Catholic Community Radio’s other station – WPYR 1380 AM in Baton Rouge – because the New Orleans signal can reach Gonzales, Prairieville and Hammond.
“This fits the puzzle pieces together very well,” Dawson said, who added that the station can now be heard easily as far west as Morgan City, Louisiana, and as far east as Mobile, Alabama.
Beyond the improved technology, Dawson said he is thrilled Catholic Community Radio, which is a part of the EWTN family, is producing so many local shows. Among the regular local shows are “Wake Up!” (7 to 8 a.m. weekdays), the Mass from St. Louis Cathedral (noon weekdays) and a series of 30-minute shows weekdays at 3:30 p.m.: “The Kingdom Road” on Monday; “Daughter, Arise!” on Tuesday; “The Heart of Living” on Wednesday; “The Church in the Home” on Thursday and “Lagniappe Theology” on Friday.
“This has really gotten EWTN’s attention,” Dawson said. “Father Mitch Pacwa has said that we are capturing the flavor of the Catholic faith where it is so rich here in southeast Louisiana and New Orleans. This is the model of what Catholic radio stations are supposed to do. So many people are passionate about their faith here.”
For more information about Catholic programming on WQNO, go to www.ccradio.live.
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.