The unlikely and inspiring success of Saint Joseph Radio
In 1983, Lu Cortese would have been the first to say that radio was just not her thing. Although she loved to talk person-to-person, talking on radio before large groups of people was a frightening prospect.
Over 35 years and hundreds of public presentations later, Cortese is known as a pioneer of Catholic radio. Her story includes a solid Catholic childhood, confusion after Vatican II, discouragement, prayer, inspiration, trust, and compassion. She has even been described as a “Mini Mother Angelica” because of her ability to delve deeply into the Catholic faith not despite, but because of, painful experiences in the past, and to use them as evangelization tools.
Saint Joseph Radio provided programming for EWTN Radio—as well as Covenant Radio and Ave Maria Radio—in the 1990s and has many guests/hosts in common with the giant network. Some prominent Catholics both networks have featured are EWTN Live host Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., Jewish convert Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God (formerly Rosalind Moss), and world-renowned neurologist, author, and speaker Dr. Vincent Fortanasce, specialist in medical ethics and Alzheimer’s prevention.
It was after one of Dr. Fortanasce’s appearances on St. Joseph Radio that Cortese took a call from a man in Oregon who had been planning on euthanizing his aunt. The show, however, helped him see the value of human life and he changed his plans. “That’s the value of Catholic radio,” Cortese said. “It reaches souls who otherwise would not be reached.”
Widening visibility for Legatus
Cortese was asked to speak at a 1990 Legatus meeting with such leaders such as Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Tom Monaghan, and Carl Karcher in attendance. She was petrified, but persevered. Now public speaking is routine for the once-shy Cortese, whose fears were allayed by an increased understanding of how Saint Joseph Radio is the Lord’s work, not hers.
The Lord provides for His works, and a major example of this was a 2015 donation of television equipment to Saint Joseph Radio, now based in Missouri. This gift made their venture into video evangelization possible, with the subsequent launching of SJEN (Saint Joseph Evangelization Network). Archbishop Robert Carlson’s Prayer Breakfast has been featured on the network, and Legatus meetings may be considered as well.
This latter effort is something close to the heart of Legate Peter Karutz, who just ended his term as the Saint Louis Chapter president. The partner at the accounting firm Matson, Driscoll, and Damico sees how good things add up when two Catholic organizations work together. He was named Chapter President of the Year in 2017, and has been a rotating host on Saint Joseph Radio Presents, the flagship show of Saint Joseph Radio, since 2015. He has also been a part of their speakers’ bureau and television outreach, SJEN.TV, the medium through which more Legatus presentations might be run.
Kartuz is especially interested in getting Legatus meetings recorded so business leaders can see, in living color, the benefits of joining. “I had been asked any number of times to join Legatus,” Karutz said. “Yet, like most business owners, I was very busy—I didn’t have another hour to my name—and while in theory there might have been good things about joining, for quite a while I just didn’t see them as vividly as I could have.”
Karutz did eventually join Legatus in 2010, and he believes that a strong media presence can help sway undecided business leaders. It’s a well-known sales tactic to show the buyer what he would be getting, rather than simply describe what he would be getting. This process has started to take place at SJEN. TV, which can be reached via saintjosephradio.org
Sharing another’s concerns
Cortese has also taken to heart one of her favorite sayings: “Let people know how much you care so they care how much you know.” Merely throwing information out will not likely result in conversions, but establishing genuine empathy for another person’s sufferings will likely be more efficacious.
“It’s all about accompanying one soul at a time,” Cortese said. “It’s not our job to ‘fix’ people, but to walk with them and share the goodness, truth, and beauty of Catholicism. It’s not the abundance of words, but the love behind them that should characterize our efforts.”
Saint Joseph was not a man of many words, as none at all were recorded in Scripture. However, he is the ideal patron for evangelists because of his humility and obedience to God, even when things were at their most challenging.
Doing God’s work can mean being drawn in uncomfortable directions. Saint Joseph was told by an angel to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt—not exactly a place of refuge for Jews. Yet, despite his possible misgivings, he recognized God’s providence and obeyed. Today, Catholics are called from time to time to take an uncomfortable step or two in order to fulfill God’s plan.
Cortese has learned that Saint Joseph Radio is the Lord’s apostolate. When someone asks her what her plans for Saint Joseph Radio are, she replies, “My plans are to get up in the morning.” The rest is God’s doing.
TRENT BEATTIE is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.