An FM radio station based in Antioch, with involvement from Chicago Bears senior director Patrick McCaskey, is expected to launch next spring featuring Catholic programming.
WSFI 88.5-FM's studios would occupy the administrative offices of the new St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church, under construction in Antioch. St. Raphael's pastor, the Rev. John Jamnicky, is WSFI's spiritual director.
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McCaskey is chairman of Sports Faith International, which would provide segments to WSFI highlighting inspirational athletes who lead exemplary lives on and off the field. WSFI and Sports Faith International are initiatives of nonprofit BVM Helping Hands Inc.
Grayslake resident Angela Tomlinson is BVM Helping Hands' president and WSFI's station manager. She said the station would fill a gap in Catholic radio programming in northern Lake County and southern Wisconsin with a potential audience of more than 500,000.
Tomlinson said WSFI would have Catholic shows from national networks and local programming. She said WSFI is awaiting Federal Communications Commission approval for construction of an upgraded transmitter off Route 173 that would bring its signal to the Rockford area.
"We would be one of the largest Catholic radio stations in the United States," Tomlinson said.
McCaskey said Catholic radio stations are experiencing rapid growth across the country and provide positive results on the quality of listeners' lives.
"We want to make sure that our area offers a similar benefit to our residents," McCaskey said.
Archdiocese of Chicago Cardinal Francis George wrote a letter giving his support to WSFI's creation. WSFI would broadcast 24 hours a day.
"I thank God that we have these tools to proclaim the gospel," George wrote, "and I pray that WSFI 88.5-FM will succeed in its mission to evangelize and inspire its listeners to lead more vibrant lives of faith."
Tomlinson praised McCaskey for providing financial and other assistance to help WSFI get on the air. McCaskey will host a fundraiser at Gurnee's KeyLime Cove Indoor Water Park Resort on Oct. 13 benefiting the station.
"He's been a gift," Tomlinson said.
FCC records show Chicago Public Media Inc. and Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church have filed separate petitions seeking denial of WSFI's request to upgrade its radio tower strength in an effort to serve more listeners at 88.5-FM. Chicago Public Media is the parent company of WBEZ 91.5-FM and a low-power station known as Vocalo 89.5-FM.