Airing his Faith

by Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

North Texas Catholic

Dave Palmer, general manager of Guadalupe Radio North Texas, at the studio in Irving. (NTC/Ben Torres)

Dave Palmer spends most of his days at Guadalupe Radio interviewing both local and nationally known personalities about issues facing the Catholic world. The mission of the Guadalupe Radio Network, “Radio For Your Soul,” is to share the Good News and draw people into the Church.

That is sometimes challenging, the St. Mary the Virgin parishioner admitted. The resignation of a U.S. cardinal accused of sexual abuse, and a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing alleged abuse by more than 300 priests against 1,000 children over 70 years, has reopened old wounds and sparked new conversations in the Church.

Palmer interviewed Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson about the former cardinal’s alleged crimes, the violation of trust, and the diocese’s zero-tolerance policy regarding the abuse of children and vulnerable adults. 

“We try to be honest but also show the Church in the best light. The Church is still the bride of Christ despite its flaws,” Palmer reasoned. “At the same time you can’t stick your head in the sand. It’s challenging to find that balance.”

The Catholic journalist measures success by the fruits of his labor and the network’s expansion. He frequently receives emails from people who want to share their conversion stories. One of the most recent came from a North Texas Protestant pastor who credits Guadalupe radio for bringing him into Catholicism.

“I see those testimonies quite often and that’s what keeps you going,” said the Dallas native and Jesuit Preparatory graduate. “Despite all the focus placed on the negatives, the Church is still touching and attracting people. There’s still a beauty there.”

GRN doesn’t gauge ratings numbers but Palmer is confident the number of listeners is growing steadily.  Started by the La Promesa Foundation—a non-profit organization founded by lay Catholics—the network’s first radio station was purchased for the Midland/Odessa area in 2000. 

Over the next few years, stations in smaller markets were added but in 2006, organizers took a dramatic leap of faith and brought GRN to Dallas-Fort Worth, the 5th largest radio market in the U.S. Two stations, English language KATH 910 AM and Spanish KJON 850 AM, broadcast to more than 5 million people daily.

GRN is the only Catholic radio organization offering both English and Spanish stations in the same markets and can be accessed anywhere in the world through the network’s free online app.

“More and more people are becoming aware of Catholic radio and we know that because we’re getting a lot more requests for announcements and news,” Palmer said. “That has spiked. People see one of our bumper stickers and tune in.”
The tower for the 1,000-watt station is located in Little Elm so areas as far north as Muenster get a stronger signal than western or southern parts of the Fort Worth diocese.

“It’s one of the challenges but that’s where the app comes in,” he added. “If you were in Africa, you could hear Guadalupe Radio crystal clear. That’s the solution.”

Dave Palmer (NTC/ Ben Torres)

Today’s ever-changing media landscape presents new opportunities and Palmer’s career seems to reflect that paradigm. After graduating with a degree in journalism from Southern Methodist University in 1989, he earned a second degree in meteorology and worked as a TV weatherman for the National Weather Network. A satellite delivered his short form weathercasts to small TV networks in 30 to 40 markets every day.

During this time, the cradle Catholic, inspired by St. John Paul II’s papacy, became more interested in his faith. But reading “Humane Vitae” — a 1968 encyclical written by St. Pope Paul VI about God’s plan for married love and the transmission of life — really energized his spiritual journey.

“The scales dropped from my eyes and it had a huge impact on me,” Palmer said. “I realized how countercultural it was. It made sense to me and, 50 years later, what Pope Paul predicted, we’re living out.”

Palmer enrolled in a pastoral religious studies program at the University of Dallas and taught theology at Bishop Dunne High School for several years.

“But I loved broadcasting,” he continued. “I wasn’t a weatherman anymore and wanted to do something faith-based.”

He found his niche in the St. Francis Xavier Society — a Dallas organization dedicated to bringing Catholic radio to DFW. 

After joining as a volunteer, the organization hired him full-time as the executive director of Radio Xavier. Within a few months, airtime was purchased on KSKY 660 AM and Palmer was co-hosting a two-hour Sunday morning program, Radio Xavier Live, with Suzette Chaires, a former TV news anchor.

When GRN expressed interest in the DFW market, the Board of Radio Xavier voted to let the much larger group take over in 2006. Palmer was named general manager and then executive director. 

Twelve years later, the husband and father of three children is probably the only person in the bustling Metroplex (40,000 new residents arrive each year) who doesn’t mind traffic jams. People listen to their favorite station in the car more than anywhere else, “so traffic is good for radio,” he said logically.

“A car is like a private sanctuary. It’s just you and the radio,” Palmer observed. “Unlike a computer, there’s no history mode. It [radio] is a very personal medium.”

Privacy may be the reason why telephones lines light up when Catholic Answers welcomes only non-Catholics callers to its GRN program.

“People aren’t ready to go to a parish or sign up for RCIA but they have questions,” he said. “They are curious and that’s the purpose Catholic radio serves. We’re not preaching to the choir. We’re moving hearts.” 

Dave Palmer spends most of his days at Guadalupe Radio interviewing both local and nationally known personalities about issues facing the Catholic world. The mission of the Guadalupe Radio Network, “Radio For Your Soul,” is to share the Good News and draw people into the Church.