RADIO MARIA FOR THE CONVERSION OF SOULS
By Fr Martin We-en – Director. Radio Maria PNG has been operating in Port Moresby for five years now. Director Fr Martin We-en, from the diocese of Aitape, explains the purpose and the plans of the radio station.
Fr Martin, can you describe how Radio Maria came to Papua New Guinea and started broadcasting in Port Moresby?
Radio Maria came to PNG through the invitation of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference to take over from the Catholic Radio Network. I was chosen as director and I left Aitape for Port Moresby on 23 September 2006 to start Radio Maria PNG. After doing some necessary work on administration issues, Radio Maria took over from Catholic Radio Network and went on air for the first time on 25 March 2007.
What is the core message of Radio Maria?
The core message of Radio Maria is the conversion of souls. Therefore, in all Radio Maria programs, we work for the purpose that the soul is saved. Radio Maria is actually a tool of the new evangelization which serves the Church of the third millennium, as a Catholic radio station committed to calling for conversion of souls through radio programming which offers plenty of space for prayer, catechism and human formation. It bases its mission on faith in divine providence and depends on volunteer work.
Who is the typical listener of Radio Maria? What is the feedback you get from the audience?
The listeners of Radio Maria are the sick, the old, the homeless, the jobless, those who need comfort and consolation, the Catholic population at large, other Christians, people of other religions and people of goodwill. The feedback from people is overwhelming, especially when we pray for people and they are healed, comforted and find jobs. We have testimonies given to us by the listeners of how Radio Maria is helping them.
In most countries Radio Maria survives through the support of the public, both in terms of volunteers for the studio and finances? What about Port Moresby and Papua New Guinea? Who is helping you?
Radio Maria has nine charisma of which two are on relying on divine providence and volunteer work. Finances and volunteer work are great concerns for Radio Maria PNG as people are not used yet to giving and doing volunteer work. We have some people depositing into our bank account every fortnight but this is not enough for the monthly expenses. We did a telethon from 6 to 13 July this year to raise money to ship new equipment to the provinces, and we got only K10,000.00 out of K300,000.00 we were expecting to raise. Radio Maria PNG is surviving on fundraising for its operational costs and network expansion, as local donations are still insufficient. The World Family of Radio Maria emphasizes its local stations around the world to raise funds locally to support themselves, and RM PNG is no exception. The World Family of Radio Maria comes to support Radio Maria PNG for what it cannot raise and only for network expansion.
Are you planning to be confined to the capital city or to spread out to the rest of the country?
We are planning to cover the whole country of PNG and the Solomon Islands. By the end of this year 2012, Radio Maria will provide all its stations and the diocesan owned stations that have time sharing agreements with Radio Maria, with a new one (1) kilowatt transmitter and antenna. These stations are Mt. Hagen, Rabaul, Port Moresby, Lae, Vanimo and Aitape. Radio Maria will also install new transmitters to four dioceses for which NICTA (National Information and Communication Technology Authority) has already given a frequency license (Kimbe, Alotau, Wabag and Wewak).
What about the other dioceses?
We have seven more dioceses which need new frequencies: Madang, Goroka, Kundiawa, Mendi, Daru/Kiunga, Kavieng and Bougainville. This year we are lodging applications for new frequencies for these dioceses, if the bishops of these dioceses agree. Next year 2013, we will work on securing funds to install transmitters in these dioceses. I am praying and hoping that, if all goes well and finances allow, by the end of 2015 all the dioceses in Papua New Guinea will have transmitters. Bereina, Kerema and Manus had been issued with frequencies under the name of Voice of Blessed Peter ToRot. Radio Maria will collaborate and work with them to share resources to better minister to the gospel in PNG, like what we are doing with other diocesan Catholic radio stations. We have also been approached by the World Family of Radio Maria to work on the dioceses of the Solomon Islands.
What about Internet broadcasting? Is it an option now for Papua New Guinea?
Technically it is possible to stream the audio signal from a studio to the FM transmitters in the remote places in PNG. I have consulted two qualified companies in this regard: TE PNG and our World Family of Radio Maria. Unfortunately we are told that the Internet in PNG is still very expensive. The sum of the Internet bills will exceed current Radio Maria’s satellite costs. Furthermore, PNG Internet services are still very poor and unreliable. Audio signal transmissions will also be poor and unreliable. Therefore, standard satellite service is still recommended.
How do you see Radio Maria in the arena of media communication in Papua New Guinea? How do you relate with other Catholic and mainstream media?
Radio Maria will become the most effective Catholic Radio in PNG for evangelization work in the near future. This is because of her strong hold in the Catholic Faith and her programs. We relate with other Catholic radios by sharing programs, personnel and equipment. We also participate in the PNG Media Council workshops and events. (G.L.)
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