“When I went to Seton Hall to get a degree in broadcasting in the 1970s, I wanted to be a New York Yankees broadcaster and sit with The Scooter [Phil Rizzuto], but God had other plans for me,” said Jim Manfredonia, president and CEO of Domestic Church Media, which recently opened two new Catholic radio stations in central New Jersey and is currently negotiating to acquire a station in the Hudson County area.
Originally from Hoboken, where Manfredonia’s father was a parishioner at St. Ann’s Church, the family moved to Weehawken and later to Central Jersey.
“We’ve always had ties to Hudson County,” he said. “My dad’s family grew up in Hoboken, and we went to high school when he lived in Weehawken. My son lived in Hoboken for several years and recently graduated from Stevens and now lives in Jersey City.”
Although the two new radio stations are located in Central Jersey, Manfredonia said he wants to expand the network and is seeking a station that will cover northern New Jersey.
“One of the ways we’re hoping to do this is through a conference we’re holding in the Trenton area that will generate interest,” he said.
Domestic Church Media, a Catholic lay organization, which operates New Jersey’s only two full-time Catholic radio stations, WFJS 1260 AM in Trenton and 89.3 FM in Freehold, will host the 2012 East Coast Catholic Family Conference on Saturday, July 28 at the Sun National Bank Center in Trenton.
The Conference, “Embrace The Family of God – Empowering Catholics to Become An Evangelizing Force in the Modern World,” will feature nationally-known Catholic evangelists, speakers, and musical guests. Many of them are known by their work on EWTN, the global Catholic radio and television network.
Two years ago, Domestic Church Media held a similar conference in Newark.
“We drew about 8,000 to that event,” he said, hoping this event will draw at least 5,000, and he would like to draw people from this area in order to generate an interest in Catholic radio. “We’re trying to bring Catholic radio back to New Jersey and we believe this conference is a way to bring together Catholics throughout the state.”
Manfredonia explained that the Catholic Family Conference is an outreach of his non-profit Catholic Lay Apostolate, begun by him and his wife Cheryl almost 10 years ago.
The main function of the organization is to establish Catholic radio stations in New Jersey and New York, and eventually the tri-state area. “It is our prayer, “Manfredonia said, “that we will soon be able to bring Catholic radio to northern New Jersey.”
Corporate life, then religious broadcasting
The road to Catholic radio networking was a strange one for him, Manfredonia said.
“Out of college, I tried, but couldn’t get a job at a radio station,” he said.
He eventually got work teaching religion at a high school, and when he got engaged he realized he needed money. Soon he got a job with a major corporation for a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Arizona.
“I’ve always had strong faith, and I was brought up in a good Catholic home,” he said.
He said the stations’ programming has local and global sources.
“Nearly 80 percent of our programming comes from the Global Catholic Network, and 20 percent is local,” he said.
Programming includes daily rosary and mass, but also a Catholic psychologist and a call-up program that allows people to ask questions about the faith.
“I host a program on thought and meditation,” he said.
But he said there is also a significant among of music, a wide variety of programming for young adults, and a lot of input from what he calls the JP2 generation, meaning those who were influenced by Pope John Paul II.
“He had a great impact on so many young people,” Manfredonia said. “Many of kids in college and shortly out of college were influenced by him. He filled them with faith and love for each other, and brought many people together.”
Recently the city of Bayonne named a street after Pope John Paul II.
“We’re trying to bring Catholic radio back to New Jersey.” -- Jim Manfredonia
The conference, he said, is aimed at bringing all Catholics together, calling Catholics together and will include testimony and other inspirational programming.
“It’s what we call the New Evangelicalism,” he said, and it is designed partly to bring back Catholics who have let their faith wane over the years.
The featured speakers will include Fr. Andrew Apostoli, Fr. Donald Calloway, Jesse Romero and Dr. Colleen Kelly Mast, all of whom are regularly featured on EWTN Television and Radio. The bishop of Trenton, David M. O’Connell, will be the main celebrant and homilist at the closing Mass. Musical guests will include The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and Danielle Rose, who was most recently featured as the main performer at World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain, last summer.
In addition to the celebration of Mass at the end of the day, attendees will have the opportunity for the Sacrament of Confession and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament during the day. There will also be many vendors displaying and selling Catholic goods, books, DVDs, CDs and religious articles, and the featured speakers will be available for book signings.
Tickets start as low as $20, plus applicable fees, and are on sale now at www.ComcastTIX.com; by phone at (800) 298-4200; or in person at the Sun National Bank Center Box Office. Group discounts are available by calling 609-656-3234. For more information, visit www.sunnationalbankcenter.com.