The Story of Relevant Radio (Immaculate Heart Media)

The experts said no one would come to World Youth Day in Denver in August of 1993. Christ was outmoded. The Pope was a bore. Kids weren’t interested. Denver was too far away. But what do experts know?

By the time the sun rose on Cherry Creek State Park on Sunday, August 15, a million of the faithful had gathered in response to Pope John Paul II’s invitation. Most had spent the night sleeping on the ground in a dusty field, weary from travelling thousands of miles to get there. We already knew that the Pope was a Saint. And we knew he was great. Saint John Paul II the Great.

The words Saint John Paul II spoke that day were riveting and unforgettable. His courage and inspiration gave many of us goosebumps. It was like a modern day Pentecost, that day was.

Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places, like the first Apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel (Cfr. Rom 1,16). It is the time to preach it from the rooftops (Cfr. Matth 10,27). Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living, in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern “metropolis”. It is you who must “go out into the byroads” (Matth 22,9) and invite everyone you meet to the banquet which God has prepared for his people. The Gospel must not be kept hidden because of fear or indifference. It was never meant to be hidden away in private. It has to be put on a stand so that people may see its light and give praise to our heavenly Father.

Those words launched an exciting chapter in the New Evangelization in America, and like promising seeds, found good soil in many young and generous hearts that day. In the crowd were 60,000 pilgrims who trekked sixteen miles the day before from downtown Denver to Cherry Creek State Park. 20,000 signed up for the 16 mile march, but 60,000 showed up, a testimony to the courage and generosity of young American Catholics. The huge crowd of pilgrims overwhelmed the supply chain; by midafternoon, hundreds of the walking pilgrims fainted due to the heat, altitude, hunger, and dehydration. But no one complained, and no one gave up. And the young American Catholic pilgrims learned a lesson first-hand: never, ever give up.

Doug Sherman and his family drove all the way from Lake Tahoe, California to be part of that epic experience. Newly ordained Fr. Francis “Rocky” Hoffman was also there from the other side of the country, with dozens of young men in tow. Years later, Sherman and Hoffman would meet, and take the Saint John Paul II challenge of the New Evangelization to a new level by creating a national Catholic radio network reaching 133,000,000 souls coast to coast.

Relevant Radio® (Immaculate Heart Media) exists today in response to St. John Paul II’s call for a New Evangelization, and is the result of a marriage between two of the country’s largest Catholic radio networks – Immaculate Heart Radio and Relevant Radio.

Inspired by the words of St. John Paul II at the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver, Doug Sherman, a homebuilder in Lake Tahoe, started a Catholic radio station in the Reno/Lake Tahoe area in 1997.

The plan was to start just a single station, but the Holy Spirit had other plans, and over the next 20 years, Immaculate Heart Radio grew to a network of 36 stations and translators, reaching more than 50 million people throughout the western United States.

Not long after Immaculate Heart Radio began broadcasting on the west coast, a few men in northern Wisconsin felt a desire placed on their hearts to start a Catholic radio station in the Diocese of Green Bay. After hours spent before the Blessed Sacrament, this desire was strengthened, and on the Solemnity of Christ the King in November of 2000, WJOK 1050 AM aired its first broadcast.

Much like Immaculate Heart Radio, Relevant Radio discovered that throughout the country there was a great hunger for inspirational Catholic radio programming. Over the course of 17 years, Relevant Radio grew to a network of 66 stations in 31 states, reaching 68 million people.

Realizing their common mission, Immaculate Heart Radio and Relevant Radio discussed uniting their organizations to create a single network that would reach coast to coast. After many years of prayerful consideration, this dream became a reality on July 3, 2017, when the two networks merged to create Immaculate Heart Media, broadcasting as Relevant Radio.

Relevant Radio provides programming that speaks to the human condition, helping to bridge the gap between faith and everyday life. The network produces a variety of popular and exciting programs to help strengthen the family, solve everyday problems, and raise the heart and mind to God.